Sunday 8 March 2009
The SNP's concordat with councils has now become a straitjacket which is causing cuts in local services to those who need them most, UNISON's Scottish Secretary Matt Smith told the Labour Conference in Dundee.
The UNISON motion on local government cuts states that the financial settlement for Scotland's local councils will lead to real cuts in public services this year with even more damaging threats for next year.
Speaking in support of the motion, Matt said:
"Today in the midst of this financial crisis many are looking to local government to make a difference: to be an economic generator; to look after those who are suffering; and to be the voice of local communities. Yet at this time we find that local authorities are themselves facing crisis. At a time when its services are more than ever required, it is starved of funds and opportunities to increase its income because of the council tax freeze and cuts in business rates."
"Of course we welcome the SNP's abandonment of the absurd local income tax, which was never going to be local anyway. But in seeking to pave the way for that policy the Scottish Government set unwelcome and unworkable financial parameters.
"The concordat has become a straitjacket. Every day we see the pressure piling up in local government, with jobs cut, redundancies proposed, hours of work reduced and services threatened. Year on year we experience not only underfunding but backtracking on policies from classroom sizes to town centre regeneration. We experience the uncertainty it provides to those employed in the services. And we see the impact on the most vulnerable."
Matt called on the Scottish Labour Party to restate the value of local government and campaign to improve local services, to recognise and fairly reward local government workers, and to recognise that "a financial crisis is no time to reduce services to those who need them most."
Notes for editors:
UNISON Scotland's resolutions to Scottish Labour Party Conference 2009 can be found at the UNISON Scottish Labour Link pages on our website
Details of the UNISON Scotland campaign Public Works: a programme to beat the recession is also available on the UNISON Scotland website