Council Funding Plea Before Government Budget Vote

24 February 2016, 08:21

Opposition politicians and trade union members will make a final plea to the Scottish Government over council funding as Holyrood votes on the budget for next year.

Unison will lobby the Scottish Parliament for a "fair funding settlement'' for local services, claiming local authorities are taking the brunt of cuts.

Inside Holyrood's chamber, Labour and the Liberal Democrats will urge the Finance Secretary to back their proposals to add 1p onto the Scottish rate of income tax to generate funding for education.

Councils reluctantly accepted the 2016/17 budget deal offered by John Swinney, which includes a commitment to maintaining the council-tax freeze, integrating health and social care services and maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio in schools.

They warned that the offer represents a £350 million funding cut which will hit local services.

Mark Ferguson, of Unison, said: "We are already seeing cuts to services for disabled people, older people, education, youth services, school support, libraries, road repairs and much more.

"It's why we are calling on the Scottish Parliament to look at this budget again.''

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "Scottish Labour would set the Scottish rate of income tax one penny higher than the rate set by George Osborne. That means we can end the cuts, not enforce them.

"Nicola Sturgeon has spent her career telling Scotland that more powers means fewer cuts. The SNP are now the only barrier to stopping these cuts.''

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: "Half of what councils do is education. Some have already passed their own budgets that include damaging reductions they are having to make as the SNP tighten the purse strings.

"This is one of our last opportunities to stop these cuts. John Swinney must reconsider his proposals and support a £475 million investment in our nurseries, schools and colleges to allow everyone to achieve their potential.''

Mr Swinney has previously rejected proposals to add 1p to income tax, arguing the measure would also hit the country's lowest-paid workers.

Speaking at the weekend, he said: "Thousands of Scotland's lowest-earning public-sector workers will be better-off thanks to the uprating of the living wage and an uplift of £400 for those covered by public sector pay policy and earning £22,000 or less.

"We won't add to the tax burden of those workers who help to form the backbone of our communities - the newly-qualified nurses, newly-qualified teachers, police officers, firefighters, postmen, bus drivers, charity workers, shop workers, and hotel workers - and are among the lowest paid.''