Thursday 9 December 2010
UNISON Scotland attacks council grant cuts
UNISON, Scotland’s largest local government trade union, today attacked the grant settlement for local government as bad for services, communities and democracy.
The settlement means a cut of 5.5% in real terms. Councils are given a classic Hobson’s choice. A cut of 2.6% if they accept the Government’s priorities, or a 6.4% cut if they don’t. If any council wanted to bridge the gap with a Council Tax rise they would need an increase of between 15% and 18%. Not a realistic political prospect for any council.
UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said:
“This settlement will damage essential services and the local economy. It also heralds a return to ring fencing and a major attack on local democracy. Councils are being turned into the administrative arm of central government.”
The main Scottish Government priority is the Council Tax freeze. This undermines local democracy and the shortfall is increasingly being made up by charges for services. This disproportionally hits low income households who rely on council services, yet it is the wealthiest who gain most from this real terms tax cut.
Mike Kirby said:
“The Council Tax freeze is simply not viable in the current financial climate. It supports wealthy homeowners at the expense of those who rely most on local services. The Scottish Government is keen to talk up this tax cut as part of its election strategy, but less keen to identify the services that will be cut to pay for it.”
The actual financial impact on local services will be greater than this allocation implies. Councils are already planning budget cuts and job losses over and above this grant settlement due to higher inflation, reducing income, rebuilding balances and demand for services in a recession.
UNISON Scotland will be calling on councils to protect services by setting a needs budget and publishing local economic and equality impact assessments.
For further information please contact:
Mike Kirby (Scottish Secretary) 07939 143355
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122409