The environmental spending needs of Scotland’s local authorities



King DN, Pashley M & Ball R (2007) The environmental spending needs of Scotland’s local authorities. Local Government Studies, 33 (2), pp. 271-309.

Scottish citizens benefit from 19% more public spending per head than English citizens. The ‘Barnett formula’ is slowly reducing the gap, but very little is known about the countries’ relative needs and hence about how far the present gap is defensible: the aim of this paper is to throw some light on the countries’ relative needs. We begin with the complex formulae that the Westminster government uses to assess the spending needs of English local authorities, and we use these English formulae to assess the needs of Scottish local authorities for three major blocks of local services. These formulae suggest that Scotland needs 6.4% more per head than England for environmental, protective and cultural services, 8.1% more for highway maintenance, and between 24.3% and 35.3% more for fire services. We also combine these results with those of two other papers concerned with local education and social services to show that these English formulae put Scotland’s per capita needs for local government services as a whole at about 6% above England’s. However, we then 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 that are currently used by Holyrood, and we find major differences. This suggests either that at least one country uses seriously flawed formulae to assess needs, or that the two countries have different conceptions of need.

Needs assessment; Local government; Equalization; Highway maintenance; Fire services; Local finance Scotland; Local government Scotland; Government spending policy Scotland; Government spending policy England; Expenditures, Public Forecasting Scotland; Expenditures, Public Forecasting England

Local Government Studies: Volume 33, Issue 2

Publication date30/04/2007
Publication date online20/03/2007
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)

People (1)


Professor David King

Professor David King

Emeritus Professor, Economics