Last month COSLA reported that the Scottish Government had cut Council funding 10 times more than Tory austerity over the past five years. Although this highlighted the fact that SNP cuts to council funding were politically driven, the recent increase in Scotland’s block grant coupled with Holyrood’s substantial revenue raising powers meant there was hope that the nationalists would choose a different path for 2019/20.
It is now clear, however, that Edinburgh’s budget has been cut by £10m more than anticipated – meaning that Scotland’s capital has £39m of “savings” to make (report, 20/12/18). Anyone who thinks that can be done without impact on Edinburgh’s schools, parks, footpaths, waste collection and social care system needs to think again.
Indeed, even Edinburgh’s Green Councillors, who backed the cuts to our capital over the past two years, have raised concerns. Cllr Gavin Corbett was clear: “I can’t recall a bleaker financial outlook in my seven years of working on budgets”.
The size of the cut raises serious questions about Edinburgh’s nationalist Council Leader’s strategy of having quiet chats with his masters in Holyrood to ensure our capital gets a fair deal. This cunning plan has failed spectacularly.
The SNP’s Finance and Resources Convenor appears to be taking a more realistic approach, he said there is “still a chance that the SNP’s negotiations with other parties to get the budget passed at Holyrood would result in more money becoming available” (report. 19/12/18).
That’s right, that SNP Councillor is actually hoping more progressive parties in Holyrood can lever a better deal out of his own party!
The truth is that the Finance and Resources Convenor is correct. Progressive opposition parties are now the key to protecting vulnerable people in Edinburgh, and I hope none backs these cuts.
The Scottish budget must deliver investment to cut poverty, grow the economy and ensure proper funding for public services. Labour’s key demands are as follows:
– Proper funding for councils to stop the cuts to schools and services
– A £5 per week increase in Child Benefit and an end to the two-child cap on tax credits
– A freeze on ScotRail fares in the New Year
– A women’s health fund to further research and support for women-specific conditions
– A £10million cash injection into discretionary housing payments to help tackle the roll out of Universal Credit
– A £20million Community Policing Fund to reverse local police cuts