Local government and unions disappointed at ‘missed opportunity’ Scottish budget

Written by Jenni Davidson on 15 December 2016 in News

Unite suggested the budget would take Scotland further towards “social crisis”, while Shelter said the “spectre of homelessness looms large”

Finance secretary Derek Mackay - Image credit: Holyrood

Local government bodies, housing charities and trade unions have expressed disappointment at today’s Scottish budget.

Trade union Unite said it was “shocked and disappointed” over plans to “slash” council budgets, which would take Scotland “further down the austerity road towards social crisis”.

And Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown called it a “missed opportunity” to protect public services, meaning the “spectre of homelessness looms large”.

COSLA, meanwhile, said it could not endorse a budget that contained cuts to the local government settlement and the STUC said it was “deeply concerned” about the cuts.


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Unite regional officer William McGonigle said: “This budget takes us further down the austerity road towards social crisis in Scotland.

“Since 2010, councils in Scotland have suffered year-on-year cuts.

“Nearly 50,000 council jobs have been slashed – people who help to educate our children, who care for our elderly and disabled, who clean the streets, who make sure we have a clean, safe environment and who provide dozens of other vital services.

He suggested that despite having new powers over taxation, the Scottish Government was still following Westminster’s “austerity road”.

“They might slow down the journey by tinkering with the higher income tax bands and council tax, but they’re fundamentally going down the same path as the Tories.

“We can’t go on like this. We need to take a new road towards a Scotland where we have the resources to properly care for each other.

He added: “We are shocked and disappointed that the Scottish Government has kept us on the same old road of cuts upon cuts upon cuts. Our members and the people of Scotland expected more.”

There was a similar response from the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

“No-one should envy the task faced by Derek Mackay in delivering a budget in the face of continued UK Government austerity, economic ineptitude and Brexit adventurism,” said STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith.

“Nevertheless, with new tax powers, the opportunity exists to use these powers to protect public services, those who use them and those who deliver them. 

“There are no short cuts to delivering decent public services. The continuing public sector pay cap unless reversed will see the wages of public sector workers continue their unprecedented real terms decline.

“The STUC is deeply concerned at the impact of the £327 million budget cut on local authority services and calls on the Scottish Government to reverse the proposed cut as well as giving full freedom to councils to raise and to be accountable for the raising of, the council tax as they deem necessary.”

Brown welcomed the £470 million for affordable housing, but said the budget “compounds the fears” of those who support the most vulnerable people in our society “that things are not going to get better any time soon”.

“It is a missed opportunity of using Scotland’s new powers to raise the extra money needed to safeguard vital services,” he said.

“Any cuts to local government funding bring the very real threat of cuts to vital services such as homelessness support. 

“Combined with ongoing changes and reductions in social security payments and too few affordable homes across Scotland means the spectre of increased homelessness looms large.”

“COSLA can never endorse a reduction to the core local government settlement, as announced as part of the budget statement today,” said COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill.

“It is our understanding that the Scottish Government had significant additional cash for 2017/18 and therefore this decision will impact on services delivered by local government.

However, he added that they “fully recognise” that the Scottish Government had made efforts to improve the settlement, including a change to the council tax proposals, and the local government organisation remains committed to working with the Scottish Government on public sector reform.

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