I thank the cabinet secretary for the advance copy of his statement, but I am disappointed by its contents. The settlement is no surprise, given that local services took the lion’s share of the cuts last year, but the reality is that it will be tough across Scotland.
Most of the questions in Professor Bell’s report to the Finance Committee this year focused on local government, but we have yet to hear answers from the cabinet secretary to those vital questions.
The cabinet secretary calls the budget “fair”, but where is the analysis of the impact on jobs and on the people who rely on services and who will see those services cut or face increased charges? As the Scottish Government publishes its paper on supporting growth, where is the acknowledgement that capital for local authorities has been slashed and that the squeeze on revenue will mean that prudential borrowing simply is not an option for the projects that are needed locally? Local companies rely on local authority projects and on people spending in local shops and businesses. The squeeze will not make things easy for them.
The Scottish National Party likes to talk about shovel-ready projects and local authorities are ready with their shovels, but they do not have the cash to get social rented housing built again. That is a key building block for Scotland’s recovery.
Where is the fairness for people who will find their services rationed and their charges increased? That is the cost of the underfunded council tax freeze.
We need to know how many jobs will be lost, and there has been nothing about wages. We welcome the fact that the living wage is being adopted across Scotland, but how many jobs will go in our local authorities in the next 12 months?