Council funding – A step forward, but not out of the woods
The Scottish Budget Bill has now passed its first stage, but what do the changes mean for local government and pay?Dealing first with the revenue funding, this roughly means that councils are now getting a standstill budget in ‘real terms’. However, that does not mean there won’t be more cuts in the coming year. That’s because ‘real terms’ means an assumption that inflation will be a 1.4% next year (the OBR has forecast that the CPI will be 2.4% next year and the RPI 3.3%).So what’s happening with pay? A 3% pay increase costs councils around £210m. As pay makes up around 55% of the revenue budget, that leaves councils with a shortfall of £80m. Councils also have less flexibility in other areas – they took £79m from their reserves last year, not something they can continue to do. As Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary says “Public sector pay rose by just 4.4% between 2010 and 2016 while the cost of living rose by 22%. And while we welcome any additional money for hard hit local government it falls far short of maintaining vital levels of services”.In summary, the extra money is very welcome and makes a significant contribution to the draft budget shortfall. It also means that local government is suffering as badly, but not much worse (this year at least), as other departments outwith the protected spending areas. However, it still means an underfunded pay policy and service cuts.
Damaging Impact of Unfair Council Cuts
Our latest Bargaining Briefing looks at the damaging impact of unfair council cuts. This highlights how UNISON branches are campaigning against all public service cuts and the fact that councils continue to bear the brunt of austerity cuts. It details some of the proposed cuts and why these are going too far.
Scottish Government Fuel Poverty Strategy – Consultation ResponseA new fuel poverty strategy is an important and welcome development. However, the proposals in the consultation need to be more ambitious and supported by investment. It also needs to engage local partners more effectively in a whole system approach. In this response we make the case for a more ambitious plan that eliminates fuel poverty as quickly as possible.