09/01/2016

Council Cuts- Cuts to Communities

There is often a lazy way of presenting the work of councils that suggests that there is fat that could be cut and always more efficiencies to be made.  Surely no serious observer can think this now.  There are to be £23million worth of cuts in Dundee in the next financial year.  All staff, except teachers, have been asked to think about 'voluntary' redundancy.  These 'cuts', 'efficiencies', 'restructures' or whatever else you want to call them impact on communities.  Taking £23million out of the council's budget will have an impact on every community in Dundee.  In other circumstances job losses on this scale would rightly lead to MPs and MSPs standing outside an office or a factory gate campaigning against the job losses.  Can we expect that in the City Square any time soon?

These cuts are about political priorities and political choices.  John Swinney chose to pass on more cuts to local government as the report to go to Dundee City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening makes clear.  You can read the whole report here (pages 3-11 of the pdf) but the relevant paragraphs are below

"8.1 The outcome of the Westminster Spending Review was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 November 2015. The Scottish Budget totals show a cash increase of £1 billion (3.3%) between 2015/16 and 2019/20, largely due to the Barnett consequentials of  changes to other Whitehall departmental budgets. When adjusted for projected inflation,
however, this represents a real terms reduction of 4.1%. For 2016/17, the year-on-year cash increase is £0.5 billion (1.7%), which represents a standstill budget in real terms.

8.2 The recent grant announcements by the Scottish Government reflect the outcome of the Westminster Spending Review. The figures announced by the Scottish Government are in respect of the 2016/17 financial year only: no figures are currently available beyond this
point. It is anticipated that the Scottish Government will undertake a Spending Review covering the period 2017 to 2020, although the timescale for this review is not yet known.
 
8.3 As noted in paragraph 5.2 above, the local government grant settlement for 2016/17 reflects an overall cash cut at national level of £350 million, or 3.5%."
 
As you will see there was actually a cash increase in Scotland's budget, which given inflation and other pressures represents a standstill budget but a national cut of 3.5% has been inflicted on local government.  The cuts to local government and to communities in Dundee are a political choice.  John Swinney chose to deliver a budget like this which will cut jobs and services across Dundee.
 
The staff of the council deserve to know where the cuts are going to impact.  They should not be left worrying about their jobs for weeks on end.  Trade unions in Dundee are getting together to protest about these cuts and I hope that there is a large turnout for their campaign.