Marlyn Glen

The draft Scottish Budget - The SNP’s New Concordat with Local Councils

20 November 2010
 
Budget Day this November marked the end of the Old Concordat between the SNP Government and local councils.
 
The New Concordat is simple.
 
The SNP have effectively told councils, " If you’re not going to allow us to strut around Scotland at the next election saying we’ve kept our promises on care for the elderly, police numbers and a council tax freeze, then we’ll cut your spending even further and deeper right now"
 
Local councils, very much the poor relations of the Old Concordat, are now threatened with becoming its destitute relations.
 
The SNP’s Budget was accompanied with fresh warnings to councils.
 
If they did not maintain a council tax freeze, police numbers at 1,000, maintain free personal for the elderly - and in addition – did not employ all probationary teachers and reduce teacher unemployment - then their funding from the Scottish Government would be cut not by a severe 2.6 per cent but by a disastrous 6.4 per cent.
 
Glasgow, Scotland’s largest council, reacted thus :
 
"Reducing unemployment among teachers and employing all probationary teachers is just not deliverable by any council. We can't create jobs without being given a new pot of cash."
 
UNISON Scotland said,
 
"Local authorities are being offered Hobson's Choice by the Scottish Government. They can accept a cut of 2.6% by signing up to a whole range of Scottish government priorities - or assert their independence and take a reduction of 6.4% - which would mean either decimating services or a council tax rise in double figures."
 
While councils such as Dundee are being forced to find £20 million in cuts next year imposed by an SNP Government that seeks to prosper politically on another council tax freeze, consider that the SNP are allowing £26 million to be spent on bonuses for high-earning NHS consultants next year.
 
Consider smaller, but no less significant revelations, such as :


Answers to Parliamentary Questions tabled by Labour disclosed that a total 13 civil servants were still being employed and paid to work in the SNP Government's National Conversation, Referendum and Elections Division, even after the SNP abandoned its plans to hold a referendum in the lifetime of the present parliament. The total cost of employing the staff up to the end of September of this year was £1.2 million.
 
A £500,000 SNP Government Events and Speechwriting Division existed up till September of this year when it was disbanded.
 
Similar spending, which is at odds with its current treatment of local government, stretches back to the first few days of the SNP Government when the SNP spent £100,000 of taxpayers’ money on "re-branding" the name of the "Scottish Executive" into the "Scottish Government", despite the fact that it made no difference legally to its work.
 
Local government now faces additional turmoil, if that were possible, because the SNP Government has set a budget for just one year rather than three, which robs councils of the ability to plan properly for the longer term.
 
However, it is now clear to councils how the SNP Government looks upon them.
 
Public services face 3 per cent "efficiency savings" i.e. cuts.

Councils' funding cuts could be more than double that.
 
Staff and services stand to be sacrificed for SNP slogans and soundbites for next spring’s election which the SNP now say will centre around the contrasting "personalities" of Alex Salmond and Iain Gray.
 
That’s a departure from their previous insistence that the election would be about independence.
 
Both, however, are deliberately well distanced from the flow of broken promises of a Government that believes it can take no responsibility for what it promised to the electorate, no responsibility for misleading voters who believed that it would do so, nor for the damage to politics that occurred when these promises were broken.
 
As it stands, this is a draft budget, but it demonstrates the extent to which an SNP Government is prepared to play politics with the jobs and services provided by those in the public sector in trying to be re-elected.


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