UNISONScotland Response to
Scottish Executive document
Making a Difference for Scotland
(includes draft budget and spending plans for
2001-02 to 2003-04)
This paper constitutes a response from UNISON Scotland to the
Scottish Executive document Making a Difference for Scotland which
includes the draft budget and spending plans for 2001-02 to 2003-04.
This paper builds on our response to the Stage 1 consultation
included in the Annual Expenditure Report.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union and represents staff
in almost all of the areas highlighted in the spending plans.
UNISON was critical of the superficial nature of last years budget
process although recognising that it was a new and welcome attempt
to provide a more transparent and accountable system..
In the Stage 1 paper this year the financial plans went down
to Level 3 and included some helpful commentary and performance
indicators. Whilst we welcomed this as a significant improvement
on last year we argued that Level 3 still only provides a superficial
view of the major spending departments. We also argued that the
presentation of figures in the Stage1 document could be improved.
In particular changes in budget lines from last year make comparisons
difficult and the presentation of capital and revenue expenditure
(including PFI costs) are unclear. Other policy objectives (e.g.
community care) are split into several headings making it difficult
to see the total picture.
When considering Making a Difference for Scotland we are left
with the impression that the Executive is now making the position
worse rather than better. This document does not even include
the level of detail provided in the Stage 1 document. We appear
to have returned to broad headings and text which cannot be traced
back to hard figures. In these circumstances it is almost impossible
to comment sensibly on the draft budget. In the spirit of openness
which should be the hallmark of the Scottish Parliament we would
still press for the full budget to be published as a separate
We remain concerned over the growth of budgets under the direct
control of ministers at the expense of those administered by other
bodies who are also under democratic scrutiny. In addition there
is a growth in hypothecated allocations which undermines local
democratically accountable organisations.
UNISON Scotland broadly welcomes the real term increase in the
Scottish Executive budget including the additional resources set
out by the Chancellor in the UK Government's spending review.
However, we need to recognise that the damage to Scotland's public
services from years of underfunding will take significant resources
over and above those available in these spending plans.
UNISON welcomes the significant real term increase in health
spending as a modest start in addressing the urgent need to rebuild
the NHS in Scotland. However, due to the absence of detailed figures
it is unclear how much of these additional resources will go into
in Hospital and Community Health Services, which as all the recent
indicators show are under severe pressure.
Most of the additional resources appear to be allocated to specific
initiatives which means that Trusts and Health Boards are not
funded to deal with financial pressures outwith these targetted
areas. For example the cost of pay awards (Junior Doctors pay
in particular), the implementation of the Working Time Regulations
and new drug costs have not been fully funded. This also has to
be put in the context of the debt crisis which exist in many Trusts.
UNISON recognises the absence of proper accountability within
the current structures and welcomes the recent announcement by
the Health Minister on this issue as a first step towards rebuilding
a truly Scottish health service. In the context of the present
structures it is therefore understandable that the Minister wishes
to ensure that new resources are allocated to agreed priorities.
However, if the core service remains underfunded staff and patients
will not see the additional resources benefiting their immediate
environment and therefore the new funding announcements lose credibility.
In addition repeated spending announcements do not assist credibility.
The drive for more efficient and effective services continues
to be undermined by wasting resources
through the inefficient use of the Private Finance Initiative.
Children and Education
UNISON Scotland welcomes the significant real term increase in
mainly small centrally funded initiatives and services, recognising
that the bulk of spending in this area is in the Local Government
and Health budgets.
Whilst we support many of these initiatives, we remain concerned
that significant real term budget increases are being built into
directly controlled budgets primarily at the expense of local
government. Schools are another area where resources are being
wasted through the use of PFI despite the attempts by several
local authorities to hide the true cost from the public..
Enterprise and Life Long Learning
The significant increase in Higher and Further education spending
is welcomed, rectifying last year's real term cut in HE spending,
although the lack of detail makes it unclear how much of this
is going to fund student support.
We were critical of the proposed cuts in the funding of the Careers
Service in the Stage 1 proposals. The new proposals with their
additional resources for this important service is therefore very
We note the further increase in resources allocated to Community
Ownership (was New Housing Partnerships) again presumably at the
expense of other local government funding. A change of name will
not make this inefficient use of resources any more acceptable.
UNISON welcomes further increased spending under the Warm Deal
and the recently announced central heating and insulation scheme.
This is a welcome move towards a comprehensive strategy to address
fuel poverty as recommended in the UNISON supported Keeping Scotland
The further increase in Social Inclusion Funding is also welcome
although greater detail is needed. However, again we are concerned
that this funding is at the expenses of direct local government
funding. We were critical of the proposed reduction in funding
for the voluntary sector and equalities and therefore welcome
the revised budget and the increased resources.
UNISON Scotland does not support the further real term cuts in
revenue support to Scottish Water Authorities. These cuts are
a partial explanation for the higher than necessary increase in
water charges along with the wasteful use of PFI. It is entirely
unclear how the Executive can claim "We have made additional
. As we indicated in our response
to Managing Change in the Water Industry there is an urgent need
to cancel debt and provide a level playing field in the Scottish
We welcome the increased Environmental Protection budget which
is a significant improvement on the Stage 1 proposals. However,
much of these resources will be allocated to new responsibilities
given to SEPA (including the Flood Warning System) and has to
be seen in the context of inadequate funding over recent years.
The proposed standstill budget for 2002-04 will make it very difficult
for SEPA to meet these new demands and we will wish to revisit
this issue next year.
Water Industry Links Page)
We note the significant real term increase in funding for motorways
and trunk roads and remain to be convinced that this is the best
use of resources in this budget. We are particularly concerned
over the further cut in grant to local authorities and the projected
further cuts up to 2003-04. Switching resources from rail to road
does not accord with our understanding of the Scottish Executive's
transport policy. The text makes several references to targets
in this area of transport policy. However, the usual absence of
financial data does not give us confidence that these targets
will be supported financially.
The lack of detail also makes it difficult to assess other areas
of transport including the routing of DETR funding for British
Waterways (Scotland) through the Scottish Executive.
The absence of any detail in this section makes it difficult
to assess the impact these funds have on Scotland's public services
and in particular how they impact on other budget heads. This
lack of transparency only fuels suspicion that Scotland is not
getting full value from this funding system.
UNISON Scotland gives a qualified welcome to the real term increase
in local authority revenue expenditure and the claimed provision
for general increases in pay and prices which have not been covered
in recent years. Recognising that there remains the issue of the
distribution formula to be resolved.
However, this increase has to be seen in the context of major
cuts since reorganisation in 1996-97. Local governments share
of the Scottish Block grant has declined from 40% to 36% over
this period resulting in some 13,000 job losses. Elements of the
additional funding have been hypothecated and local authorities
face additional financial commitments over and above inflation
Whilst the recognition of the need to fund pay for future years
is welcome it does nothing to address the current pay difficulties
which reflect many years of underfunding. In addition there is
no indication of the assumptions upon which this funding is based.
UNISON Scotland believes that there is an urgent need to review
local government finance. In particular the allocation of business
rate revenue discriminates against urban areas which generate
most revenue but do not see an equitable share of resources. For
example, Glasgow collects £264m in business rates yet only
receives £201m back under the current arrangements. Whilst
UNISON welcomes many aspects of the recent announcements on local
government finance including the abolition of expenditure guidelines
and the three year grant settlement, the review should consider
further relaxation in the controls placed on local authorities.
After last year's significant cuts a real term increase in expenditure
is welcome. However, as with other budgets the absence of detail
makes it difficult to assess the benefits to particular services.
UNISON Scotland broadly welcomes the real term increase in expenditure
across most budget headings. We also welcome the fact that this
plan shows some signs that the Executive has listened to the representations
made by UNISON and others. However, broad budget headings disguise
very real problems with a number of services which are unlikely
to be fully addressed within these spending plans.
The most disappointing aspect of the plans is yet again in the
presentation. Heavy on spin and short on detail is the overwhelming
response of UNISON members when they commented on these plans.
As we indicated last year, the very real achievements of the Scottish
Executive are at risk of being lost under a tide of cynicism caused
by poor and in some cases misleading presentation. All that is
required in this process is the publication of the full budget,
presented in a consistent format. We strongly urge that approach
on the Scottish Executive.
Public Finances Policy Pool
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