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 Scottish Executive
"Spending Plans for Scotland"

A Response from UNISONScotland

13 December 1999


This paper constitutes a response from UNISON Scotland to the Scottish Executive consultation document Spending Plans for Scotland which covers the financial plans for 2000-01 to 2001-02.

UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union and represents staff in almost all of the areas highlighted in the financial plans.

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Introduction (Page 2)

UNISON Scotland welcomes the budget process and the consultation arrangements. We accept that the timetable for this year's consultation process has had to be cut short. This has impacted on our own ability to consult as widely as we would have wished and look forward to being able to make a more substantial contribution in future years.

We had some difficulty in drawing comparisons with previous years mainly due to different departmental boundaries in the Scottish Executive compared with the former Scottish Office. Greater clarity around these comparisons would have been helpful.

The financial plans go down to 2nd tier. This only gives a superficial view of the Scottish Executive's spending plans and will discourage constructive contributions on the basis of consultation set out in the plans. In many expenditure areas the absence of detail precludes any comment at all. In the spirit of openness which should be the hallmark of the Scottish Parliament we would wish to see the full budget published as a separate document.

There is no explanation of the underlying assumptions including price and wage inflation. This is particularly important in areas of spending (see Table 1) which appear to be suffering from real cuts in expenditure. We also note that budgets which are directly controlled by Ministers appear to have substantial increases at the expense of those indirectly administered including local government.

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Local Government (Page 3)

The clamed increase in GSE of 3.6% is not reflected in any of the tables. We assume this is a `like for like' comparison problem, involving centrally funded initiatives such as the Social Inclusion Fund. However, the absence of any transparency on this point runs contrary to the stated aim of openness. A similar criticism can be made of the claims for AEF and GAE. The expenditure totals in the tables do not match the claimed increases in expenditure.

In general terms a 3.6% increase in expenditure even if it was provided in this form to all local authorities is still likely to result in service cuts. The GAE provision for `Other Services' explicitly presumes that services will be cut by more than £44m (plus inflation). This impacts considerably in areas such as environmental health, street cleaning and the provision of recreational services.

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 much revenue but do not see an equitable share of resources.

It is also disappointing to note that no provision has been made to finance an annual pay round nor to consider the impact of the historic single status agreement in local government which promotes equality of treatment and equal pay for work of equal value.

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Children and Education (Page 4)

Whilst we welcome the real term increase in mainly small centrally funded initiatives we recognise that the bulk of spending in this area is in the Local Government and Health budgets. The claimed 44% increase in central government expenditure is impossible to verify from the data provided.

As stated above we are concerned that significant real term budget increases are being built into directly controlled budgets primarily at the expense of local government. Whilst this may make positive media headlines for Ministers it is local representatives and the staff who have to keep mainstream services in operation.

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Communities (Page 5)

We note the large increase in resources allocated to New Housing Partnerships again presumably at the expense of other local government funding. UNISON Scotland strongly opposes this scheme and believes that the resources allocated to it could be better directed.

We welcome increased spending on the Warm Deal.

The large increase in Social Inclusion Funding is also welcome although greater detail is required under this heading. We note the recent announcement of one off deprivation payments totalling £6.5m to Glasgow, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire. This is only a very small part of the £76.3m allocated to Social Inclusion next year and greater detail would be helpful.

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Enterprise and Life Long Learning (Page 6)

Allowing for inflation, this is an overall real cut in resources. Accepting the real increases in FE and HE spending the major areas of cuts are hidden in the `other' category. Again this level of transparency is unhelpful. We do not support the proposed cuts in the Careers Service which will inevitably impact on vital services particularly to young people.

The savings on Student Support appear to anticipate the outcome of the Cubie report!

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Health (Page 7)

At first glance this level of spending looks like a modest real term increase. However, when the table is examined, hospitals and community services and GP services get increases which will barely cover price inflation. The bulk of the increase goes on the drugs bill.

Many NHS Trusts are in serious financial difficulty and the worst of the winter has yet to hit us. The NHSiS is in urgent need of a substantial real term increase in resources.

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Justice (Page 8)

Whilst we note that these services are subject to an overall cut we welcome the modest protection given to essential criminal justice Social Work services.

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Rural Affairs (Page 9)

The headline substantial increase in resources in practice goes mostly to farmers under the C.A.P. Interestingly, we note that as a nation we spend as much on supporting farms as we do on Further Education.

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Transport (Page 10)

We note the overall cut in this budget although welcome the modest protection given to the roads programme. That could of course have been more substantial had vital resources not been wasted on the Skye Bridge PFI scheme. Again the lack of detail is unhelpful. Important services such as waterways are presumably hidden away in the `other transport' heading.

It is not clear where the claimed funding for rural transport including ferry services and airports is being provided from.

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Environment (Page 11)

The claimed increase for SEPA is again not spelt out in the spending table.

Water is subject to a £7m cut which does not match the explanation in the text. We presume the `increased allocation' referred to in the text is notional PFI funding which as usual provides poor value for money and constitutes the drip by drip privatisation of Scotland's water.

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Whilst there is much in the spending plans that we welcome our major criticism is focussed on the level of detail and the absence of transparency in the presentation. If financial decisions are "to be shared with the people of Scotland", then we have to be given the essential information to enable us to make a genuine and constructive contribution. The very real achievements of this government are sometimes lost by the apparent desire to focus on presentation rather than substance.

We also need to recognise that real services particularly in local government and the health service will continue to be put under serious pressure as a result of these spending plans. In future years we need to focus on income as well as expenditure recognising the adverse impact the funding formula is beginning to have on Scotland's public services.

UNISON Scotland
Public Finances Policy Pool
13 December 1999

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