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Scottish Councils Need More Revenues

Monday, January 25, 2016

GMB Scotland Say More Revenues Needs To Be Raised To Blunt Impact Of Spending Cuts For Scottish Councils

John Swinney is wrong to make light of the impact of cuts to budgets for Scotland councils as Glasgow for example faces draconian cuts says GMB Scotland.

GMB Scotland, the union for public service workers, commented on the article in the Times by John Swinney rejecting the case for increasing council tax to avoid cuts to Scottish local councils. See notes to editors for copy of article by John Swinney deputy first minister of Scotland in the Times on 25th January 2016.

Alex Mc Luckie, Regional Officer GMB Scotland, said “John Swinney is wrong to dismiss or make light of the impact of cuts to budgets for Scotland councils.

He could not be more wrong to say “some of the language used to describe this has been unnecessary.” The cuts in Glasgow, for example, are draconian.

More revenue needs to be raised to blunt the impact of these cuts.

If council tax had kept pace with inflation Scottish councils would be raising an additional £427m in 2016/17. There would be no need to raid Scottish Government central funds to compensate for these lost taxes thus increasing to amount available for the block grants to councils by £427m.

Freezing council tax is eroding Scotland's tax base. The compensation mechanism perpetuates a "Rob Peter to pay Paul" approach to funding Scotland's councils and should stop.

Local tax to fund local services should be a vital part of local democracy. Voters should be able to make choices about how much tax they should pay and for what level of public service.

If the Council Tax is to end any replacement should fairer, more progressive and empower local voters.

GMB Scotland will work to build a consensus for a tax base to be broadened in a fair way to pay for essential public services"

End

Contact: Alex Mc Luckie 07885 348269 or Benny Rankin, GMB Scotland Regional Officer on 07912 560808 or 0141 332 8641 or GMB press office 07921 289880.

Notes to editors

Copy of article by John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland in the Times January 25 2016

Reform is key as councils handle challenging budgets

John Swinney

The UK government’s austerity programme has reduced Scotland’s public finances and put significant pressure on household income. It is against that backdrop that the Scottish government has had to take its decisions in forming its Budget for 2016-17.

The financial context created by these damaging cuts means that organisations must operate more efficiently to protect public services, and to protect household finances we believe there is no justification for increasing income tax or council tax.

The Scottish government funding proposals for the coming financial year deliver a strong but challenging financial settlement for local government. Scotland’s councils are able to address these challenges from a healthy base. Local government funding has been rising in Scotland in recent years, with core funding protected and new money provided for additional responsibilities. This is in stark contrast to the position in England, where councils have faced a real terms funding cut of 27.4 per cent between 2011 and 2015.

As a percentage of total revenue expenditure, next year’s reduction in local authority budgets in Scotland is 2 per cent. While I do not pretend that this is easy for any council to handle, some of the language used to describe this has been unnecessary.

The key to addressing this challenge is reform, and local government is a key partner in our programme to improve public services. Local government plays an essential role in social care and we are embarking on a radical reform to the way this care is paid for. At the heart of the Budget is our commitment to spend an additional £250 million to support the integration of health and social care.

This is a direct investment in ensuring this process can be undertaken swiftly to meet growing demand. This extra resource can be counted upon by local government as a real and tangible investment in improving a lifeline service.

Successful integration of health and social care will mean that fewer people need to go to hospital to receive care but it will also ensure that where that care is necessary, people will spend less time in hospital and return home more quickly. It will mean a service more focused on the needs of individuals.

As the biggest reform of our health care since the establishment of the NHS in 1948, it deserves the resources we have allocated and it needs the energetic participation of our health and local government services.

I look forward to creating a settlement that will deliver for communities right across Scotland.

John Swinney is deputy first minister of Scotland

 

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