Weds 17 November 2010
Budget statement - UNISON Scotland initial response
The Scottish Government's commitment to a Living Wage is welcome.
But they show little understanding of the reality of life for
those on modest incomes. Low paid workers providing public services
face increased pension contributions, housing benefit cuts and
increasing inflation on essentials such as food and heating costs.
That all adds up, not to a pay freeze, but a very real cut in
Any commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies is welcome, but
is far from clear whether this can be delivered. Areas such as
local Government are outwith direct Scottish Government control
- and the budget document itself discusses lowering staff numbers
as a way of implementing cuts. We are appalled at the retention
of the Council Tax Freeze - a policy that has already Scottish
Local Authorities in excess of £150million. Councils will - as
they have been doing already - attempt to plug the gap left by
reducing services and increasing charges. This has a disproportionate
impact on the low paid - who are also the people who save least
from freezing Council Tax.
Local authorities are being offered Hobson's Choice by The Scottish
Government. They can accept a cut of 2.6% by signing up to a whole
range of Scottish government priorities - or assert their independence
and take a reduction of 6.4% - which would mean either decimating
services or a Council Tax rise in double figures.
The Scottish Government announce that police numbers will be
maintained but neglects to mention that increasing numbers of
uniformed officers will be employed on administrative and specialist
tasks as Police (civilian) staffs are cut. It is a waste of public
money and a cosmetic political exercise to keep police numbers
up this way when the public rightly expect them to be visible
on the streets.
Mr Swinney should be more honest with the public. When he says
efficiency savings of 3% what he means is 'cut'. There is a difference
between reducing the budget and being more efficient. Where is
the efficiency in a smaller number of people delivering a poorer
Despite protesting otherwise Mr Swinney has announced the return
of PFI - via his non profit distributing model. This is essentially
PFI lite. What he failed to make clear today is the long term
impact on revenue budgets by using this model.
Funding capital projects through revenue budgets means long term
pain for short term gain.
Women come off badly in this budget. In the equality statement
accompanying the budget the issue of unequal pay is largely avoided.
There are observations about segregation in the workforce and
overall pay gaps but it seems to contains nothing on equal pay
litigation in public services other than a commitment to conduct
pay reviews for government staff. There appear to be no funds,
no capitalisation and no action on the audits that have shown
the scale of the problem.
Speaking after the announcement UNISON Scotland Convener Mike
Kirby said "John Swinney spoke about choices today - and he made
the wrong ones. His pay freeze amounts to a real terms wage cut
for many modestly paid people in Scotland. Public Service workers
in Scotland face a double whammy, as workers many will see a pay
cut. And as service users they will find they are paying more
for services that will become ever more threadbare"
Notes for editors UNISON Scotland will publish analysis
of the Budget Statement in the coming days