Unite Scotland has today (Wednesday 16 December) called on the Scottish government to spell out their long-term plan for local government ahead of the Holyrood elections after a funding cut of approximately 5.6 per cent and a ninth successive year of the council tax freeze were confirmed in this afternoon’s budget.
An estimated 40,000 council jobs have been cut since 2010 across Scotland and tens of thousands more are under threat as local authorities pursue massive savings over the next three years.
Scottish councils are mired in total debts of approximately £14.8 billion and according to figures drawn from Audited Statements of Accounts for 2014/15 published by all thirty-two councils an average of 44 pence in every pound of council tax is being spent on servicing debt.
Unite members in local government are currently campaigning for an amnesty on the re-payment of an estimated £2.5 billion worth of pre-Scotland Act debts owed by council’s to HM Treasury in an effort to mitigate mass compulsory redundancies by easing pressure on revenue budgets.
Today’s budget however has now prompted further questions from council workers about how jobs and services can be sustained and how the funding crisis will be tackled by the Scottish government.
Unite deputy Scottish secretary Mary Alexander said: “The debate on the future of local government should dominate the forthcoming election campaign because we can’t wait until after May to see how hard and fast the axe is going to fall.
“We have two options to try and sustain jobs and services - centralisation or local democracy. John Swinney has indicated that over the lifetime of the next parliament his party would lean towards the former so we need to know what the impact will be.
“We know that tough choices are facing us and that’s why we have proposed that the Scottish parliament and council leaderships support a lobby of the treasury for an amnesty on the repayment of pre-devolution debt owed by councils.
“However, we need clarity and cooperation from the Scottish government about their long-term plans if we are serious about avoiding a potentially disastrous era of further austerity across Scottish councils.”
For further information please contact Unite Deputy Scottish Secretary Mary Alexander on 07711 237075, Unite Regional Officer Willie McGonigle on 07810 157912 or Peter Welsh, Unite Scotland Communications, on 07810 157931.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.