Scotland’s social services spending needs: an English view



King DN, Pashley M & Ball R (2007) Scotland’s social services spending needs: an English view. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 25 (6), pp. 918-940.

Scottish citizens enjoy 25% more spending per head on public services than English citizens, but almost nothing is known about the countries’ relative needs and hence about how far this gap is defensible. We explore their spending needs for local authority services, which cover over half the spending concerned. We first compare needs for local personal social services. To do so, we take the complex formulae with which the Westminster government assesses the needs of English local authorities, and we use these formulae to assess the needs of Scottish local authorities. The formulae suggest that Scotland needs 15.3% more per head than England. We then combine these results with those of two earlier papers that explore other local services to show that the English formulae put Scotland’s per capita needs for local authority services as a whole at about 6% above England’s. However, we also compare the relative needs of Scottish local authorities as assessed by the English formulae with their relative needs as assessed by the Scottish needs formulae currently used by Holyrood, and we find major differences. This suggests either that at least one country assesses needs with seriously flawed formulae, or that the two countries have different conceptions of need.

Spending needs; Personal social services; Equalization; Public welfare Finance; Welfare economics; Local finance Scotland; Local government Scotland

Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy: Volume 25, Issue 6

Publication date31/12/2007
Publication date online19/09/2006

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Professor David King

Professor David King

Emeritus Professor, Economics