Associate feature: More cuts will mean structural changes to services

Written by Dave Watson on 5 October 2017 in Comment

Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, on the funding problems facing local government

If councils have had such a good deal, why have nine out of ten austerity jobs cuts been in councils?

The Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) reports that non-health spending per person is on course for a 20 per cent squeeze over the decade to 2020/21 and that non-protected areas face real term cuts of between 9 per cent to 14 per cent from the current parliamentary term to 20/21. Local government is the largest part of the non-protected budget. This year’s budget included a revenue cut of £225m for Scottish councils.

COSLA says: “In 2017/18 the revenue settlement for local government fell by 3.6 per cent (£349m) In 2017/18 local government’s share of the Scottish budget fell from 30.6 per cent to 29.7 per cent. Local government revenue funding as a share of Scottish government funding has decreased by 3.7 per cent (£1bn) between 2010/11 and 2017/18.”

The Scottish government respond by listing funding for their key policy initiatives – but generally this has little impact on budget cuts. However welcome, this money is ring-fenced – to pay for new initiatives and so can’t be used to plug the gaps. The pupil equality scheme will go straight to schools; the social care funding is to pay for the living wage in social care, much of which is provided by the third and private sectors. Capital funding doesn’t pay for day-to-day services and so on.

UNISON Scotland’s Damage reports evidence the impact of 30,000 job losses on council services. We are now moving towards setting council budgets and UNISON have warned that continued cuts mean real structural changes to services rather than the salami slicing of recent years. The Scottish government and local councils now need to use all the powers at their disposal to protect council services and those who deliver them.

Dave Watson is Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland

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