Local Government in the New Scotland. What do budget cuts mean for public services?. Local Government pre-devolution. Scottish local government was organised into its current size in 1996 by the then UK Conservative Government
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What do budget cuts mean for public services?
Scottish local government was organised into its current size in 1996 by the then UK Conservative Government
The re-organisation was seen as a political ploy to break up Labour’s control of large local authorities and create smaller, suburban, more affluent authorities, which, perhaps be more supportive of the Conservatives
There are 32 local authorities in Scotland. Many are very different, but others, particularly neighbouring ones, are very similar in size, composition and need
The 1999-2007 Scottish Executives clearly had better relations with local Government than the Conservatives had.
But, there was concern that new, national initiatives, such as the Curriculum for Excellence, were creeping into local authorities’ treasured areas.
In 2007, not only did the SNP takeover from Labour at Holyrood, the SNP replaced Labour as the largest party in local government.
Most of Scotland’s local authorities are no longer run by Labour, but a variety of coalitions and minority administrations.
Being a minority Government, the SNP has struggled to pass its budgets and in 2009 abandoned its manifesto pledge to abolish the Council Tax.
It has however established a freeze on Council Tax increases and set up a “concordat” with local authorities.
SNP abandon plans to abolish Council Tax
Single Outcome Agreements (SOAs) are agreed by each individual council and the Scottish Government.
They mean a focus on Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes.
For example, in education, a SOA for a local authority means that it must focus on
Inputs: More teachers
Outputs: Smaller class sizes
Outcomes: Successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens (The Curriculum for Excellence).
Education Cabinet Secretary Mike Russell
COSLA agreed to freeze Council Tax increases until 2010 in return for small annual increases in funding and greater control over spending decisions (the reductions in ring-fencing)
Councils have been required to make “efficiency savings”
COSLA has been delighted with the reductions in ring-fencing.
The reductions in ring fencing mean that it is the councils who will make more of these decisions not the Scottish government.
Scottish Labour claims that local authorities were being made to deliver key national policies with no extra money.
It claims that the SNP has not given local authorities the funds they were promised.
But, COSLA signed up to the Concordat.
Who will get the blame if/when services are cut?
Will it be local government or the Scottish Government?
In the light of Westminster-led budget cuts, COSLA is understood to wish to end the freeze on Council Tax increases.
“The concordat is a con”
Andy Kerr MSP
Many local authorities simply do not have the money to pay for free school meals in P1-P3.
The maximum class size of 18 in P1-P3 is now an “aim”, rather than a “pledge”.
The Council Tax will not be abolished, as envisaged at the start of the Concordat.
In order to deal with the budget deficit, brought on by the bail-out of the banks, new Chancellor George Osborne introduced an Emergency Budget in June 2010.
There will be annual cuts in Scottish public spending of around 4% for the next four to five years.
1 in 3 Scots works in the public sector. 95% of Scottish children go to state schools. Almost everyone in Scotland will be affected by the cuts.
Emergency Budget 2010
Finance Secretary John Swinney pledged to protect Health spending. But this means that spending in other areas will be cut more.
He also agreed with Westminster that the full budget cuts in Scotland would be delayed for one year. But, this could mean more severe cuts in years to come…
COSLA is angry at Health being disproportionately protected. It is angry at the degree to which local authorities will have to cut jobs and services.
The survival of the Concordat is in jeopardy.
Examples: Cuts in school transport, museums and sports centres, police overtime.
Redundancies are being made and posts unfilled.
There are increases in charges for breakfast clubs, special refuse uplifts and blue badges for disabled drivers
UNISON protest against the cuts, Glasgow 2010