"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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Enterprise and Life Long Learning (Page
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Finances Policy Pool
13 December 1999
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