Blackmail. Undemocratic. Imposed.
Those are just some of the words my colleagues have used to describe the way in which the Scottish Government has managed this year’s funding settlement for Councils.
Not content with reducing North Ayrshire Council’s grant allocation by around £10million, the Scottish Government threatened to cut it by a further £11million if Councillors didn’t agree to their terms and conditions.
You elect local Councillors to deliver the public services that your community needs. I find it appalling that Government Ministers are dictating to locally elected representatives in this manner.
This is a clear attack on local democracy which must be challenged.
SNP Ministers are sitting at desks in Edinburgh trying to micro-manage every school, care home and cleansing department in Scotland. A Council leader trying to do this in their own local authority would face inevitable failure. A Minister in Edinburgh trying to do so across the whole country is simply ludicrous.
So, North Ayrshire Council set a budget last Wednesday which contained £13million of cuts to services like library opening hours, community wardens, street cleaning, public toilets, Dreghorn dump, cleaning and school office staff.
The Labour Group moved a few amendments, such as my amendment to abolish the charges levied on schools for hiring on their own school facilities paid for by cutting the lunches the Council provides to Councillors and Officers.
One of our amendments called on all Councillors to oppose the cuts and back Scottish Labour’s plan to add 1p onto the income tax rate set Tory George Osborne. That would generate an additional £475million for the Scottish budget, enough to stop every one of these cuts
Unfortunately, SNP Councillors, led by their party bosses in Edinburgh, voted against the plan. In doing so they chose to manage Tory austerity rather than oppose it. It’s a decision summed up by North Ayrshire Council’s sole Tory declaring he is happy to see the return of the Tartan Tories.
The uncomfortable truth for the SNP is that Labour’s plan has been proven to be fair. The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre just last weekend revealed that 92% of the cost of our plan would be paid for by the top half of earners in Scotland. This confirms it is the right thing to do to protect jobs and vital public services that the SNP have just cut.
The Labour movement didn't campaign for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in order for it to be a conveyor belt for Tory policies. It’s time our Parliament used its powers to protect the Scottish people. Labour would do so, unfortunately the SNP refuse.