STUC says there is a “conspiracy of silence” about impact of local council cuts
MANY local councils in Scotland are making major cutbacks today to public services like social care, waste management, toilets and leisure centres as councils announce their annual budget decisions under severe financial constraints.
CommonSpace reported on Wednesday that the Labour-SNP coalition at Edinburgh City Council plans to make PS22m in cuts at the budget meeting, as local trade-unionists warned the NHS was under threat from social care cutbacks.
In Fife, the council is likely to announce that PS77m of cuts are planned over three years. The local Unison branch secretary has sent the councillors a letter, calling the cuts “draconian”. Fife Liberal Democrats have told the council to scrap plans to cut school hours.
The same proposal to reduce school hours was passed by West Dunbartonshire council last week, but was subsequently reversed 48 hours later after an outcry from the public and mooted plans for industrial action from teachers.
Local council budgets are being squeezed by reduced Scottish Government block grant funding from Westminster, which has fallen by a fifth since 2011. This reduced funding has been passed on by John Swinney, Finance Minister at Holyrood, to local councils across the country.
Additionally, the local tax – council tax – is worth one-fifth of all local government funding, and that has been frozen since 2007 under successive SNP administrations, further reducing overall funding for local councils.
Dave Moxham, STUC deputy general secretary, told BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday morning that raising more money through local tax was necessary: “It seems to us that there is almost a conspiracy of silence about the absolute impact that these cuts are having on individuals.
“We need to see the council tax increased and we need to start a proper debate about how we fund local government.”
Swinney told the same programme later: “Like all other organisations in the public sector, they have to live within the constrained resources that are now available to the public sector.”
Glasgow’s budget meeting is set for 19 February, and the Labour-led council plans PS29m worth of cuts for 2015/16.
Glasgow Unison along with other local trade union leaders has sent the council a letter proposing a ‘No Cuts Budget’ through taking money from the council’s ‘General Reserve’ and adding to the council debt. It plans to lobby the council on budget day next Thursday 19 February.
Picture courtesy of Duncan C