Local Government Funding — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:44 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 3:44 pm, 27th March 2019

I congratulate my hon. Friend Thelma Walker on securing this debate at a critical time for our public finances.

I speak as a Member of Parliament for the great city of Glasgow, which has a fine tradition of what might be called municipal socialism. It would be great to rediscover that municipal route to socialism, but it has been under assault for many years now, with a decade-long programme of austerity cuts, if not more, the brunt of which has been borne by local government. We often hear from Scottish National party Members in this place about how wonderful everything is in Scotland, and how munificent the Scottish Government are in stewarding local government by dispensing the fruits of excellent governance in Edinburgh to the rest of Scotland. That could not be further from the truth.

Look at the dire straits in which Glasgow City Council finds itself. Last year, Glasgow had to find £49.9 million-worth of cuts, almost £20 million of them a direct consequence of the Scottish Government’s cuts to local government. The remainder are due to pay and other inflationary pressures. The real brunt of cuts made by central Government in Westminster and at Holyrood is borne by councils, and, as a result, Scotland has lost 30,000 council jobs in recent years. That is a shameful indictment of those who are responsible. The mass unemployment that we railed against during Thatcherite deindustrialisation in the 1980s has been writ large in local government by a Scottish nationalist Administration in Edinburgh.

Between 2010 and 2018, Glasgow lost £233 per head of population in Scottish Government funding. That is a real-terms cut; it is the cost of the Scottish National party to every single Glaswegian. In May 2017, a minority SNP administration took over Glasgow City Council. However, instead of robust opposition to the onslaught of cuts, we have seen not only meek acceptance by the council, but even an attempt to divert attention and to deny the reality of the fiscal constraints on Glasgow—Scotland’s largest city, and a city with some of the greatest social problems in the country.

In my constituency, the failure in the quality of local services—a reduction in cleansing services, poor repair of roads, failure to help homeless people to move into temporary accommodation, and a decline in care and social work services—has had a creeping effect on some of the weakest people in our society, who disproportionately rely on such services. That has happened at a time when the SNP has celebrated imposing a council tax freeze on local government.