Budget: Greens Warn Finance Secretary Over Unfinished Business

Ahead of this week’s statement (Thu 14 Dec) from the Scottish Government on its proposed tax and spending plans for 2018-19, Green MSPs are warning ministers that they cannot support a budget that cuts funding to local council services such as education, social care, transport and leisure.

During last year’s budget process, the Green MSPs succeeded in getting SNP ministers to cancel proposed cuts of £160million to local councils, and they made clear that they expected ministers to go further in future and begin to repair the damage done by previous years’ cuts.

Already this year, following pressure from the Greens, Scottish Ministers have announced that the public sector pay cap will be lifted and the government’s discussion paper on income tax echoed Green policy in proposing new rates and bands of income tax, to deliver a fairer system, generate more revenue and protect lower earners.

Budget cuts being faced in Edinburgh, for example, include:

* Cuts to the maintenance of or availability of sports pitches

* Reduction in bin collections and opening hours of community recycling depots

* Reductions in home to school transport arrangements

* Removal of the night time noise response team

Andy Wightman MSP, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“Last year’s Green budget deal stopped the cuts to councils’ overall funding package but we must now start to see a reversal of the reductions previously suffered. A budget that contains a return to cuts for councils will be unacceptable, and the Finance Secretary has known since last year that this is unfinished business.

“With inflation and growing demand, investment in council services is essential if we are to support our communities and tackle inequalities. Local councils provide vital services ranging from education and social care to welfare advice and libraries. Councils play a key role in the health of our communities by maintaining sports facilities and parks, and building walking and cycling infrastructure.

“Councils have shed 15,000 jobs over the last five years, with remaining workers seeing their pay eroded and service users seeing charges increase. More than half of what councils get from the Scottish Government is ring-fenced for national priorities; if the Scottish Government won’t provide councils with the funding they need, they must give them the power to raise more money themselves.”

Cllr Gavin Corbett, Finance spokesperson for the Greens on Edinburgh city council, said:

“Edinburgh is looking at £20m of cuts next year and £150m over the next 5 years. At that level, cuts penetrate to every part of services: schools, care for older people, parks and homelessness services, to name only a few.

“Councils are doing a lot to adapt to leaner finances but it’s demoralising for staff and service users alike to face cuts after cuts. As well as a fair settlement from the Scottish Government now, councils also need powers over their own income – on tax, on business rates and on other levies – so that they can make choices to invest in services.”