Date: Wed 11 February 2009
For immediate release
UNISON, Scotland’s local government union, has welcomed the decision to drop the Local Income Tax by the Scottish Government today - but issued a warning that the actual financial settlement for Scotland’s local councils announced in the same speech by Finance Secretary John Swinney will lead to real cuts in public services this year, with even more damaging threats for next year.
The union says that despite claims by the Government of increasing cash for local government, this budget will inevitably mean staffing cuts and services to the public will be lost. Council budgets are under pressure from the settlement for three reasons:
1. A large chunk of the money from the Scottish Government has been ring-fenced to pay for the council tax freeze, and can’t be used to deliver services.
2. The budget deal with the Tories to cut business rates will mean less money.
3. Income to councils from sales and service charges is dropping due to the recession.
At the same time demand for public services from local councils is increasing due to that same recession.
Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser said:
"We welcome John Swinney's acceptance of reality - that there was neither Parliamentary support nor a viable financial basis for the SNP's Local Income Tax plan. It would have resulted in hundreds of millions of pounds lost to local councils with a disastrous effect on jobs and services.
"Unfortunately, the local government settlement which John Swinney did announce today will still have the effect of budget cuts for Scotland's councils. UNISON is opposed to the continued Council Tax freeze which will increasingly cause jobs and services to be cut back.
"A recession is the time to invest more money in local services, not cut them back. In addition to increasing demand as people turn to public services to help them cope with the recession, properly funded public services actually boost the economy."
UNISON is planning a campaign to promote local services and to ensure they are available for the increasing number of people who were likely to depend on them.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary 07771 548997 (m)
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)