1st – 7th February 2016 Issue 166
Stage 1 Debate: Budget (Scotland) (No. 5) Bill
As JFK once put it. To govern is to choose. Sometimes choices – like those the Scottish Government has to make in the Budget aren’t made in ideal circumstances. The UK Government is cutting back and some of that is being passed on to the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government is in turn passing that on mostly, but not all to Local Government… to the tune of somewhere North of half a billion pounds(Yes really, and you don’t need to take our word for it either). This is going to have a big impact on local services, and not in a good way. CoSLA (and for obvious reasons we arehardly their biggest fans) are rightly angry. Those of a certain age will remember back before the Scottish Parliament was set up. Then the argument was that it would allow for different decisions to be made in Scotland – even protect us from the actions of Tory Governments. Was the plan to have an institution that merely acted as a transmission belt for cuts decided on elsewhere? Far less one that would face down councils saying in effect ‘”we are cutting your money and if you don’t do what we want with the money you are getting, or try and get any more – we’ll take even more off you’.? We are fairly sure it wasn’t. Meanwhile as councils suffer the death of £500million – in a manner that bears an eerie similarity to Mrs Thatcher’s ‘rate-capping’ – the Scottish Government boasts of subsidising business and plans further tax cuts. It doesn’t have to be like this. The Scottish Government could put the ‘local’ back in Local Democracy by removing the threat to take a pound of flesh from Councils if they unfreeze the Council Tax, they could relax borrowing rules for councils . The Scottish Government want more powers for the Scottish Parliament – so do we. The case for getting those powers would be massively strengthened if The Scottish Government were prepared to use the powers that they currently have. Ducking(tax), diving and shunting austerity on to councils isn’t good enough.
Stage 3 Proceedings: Education (Scotland) Bill
UNISON welcomes the commitment to tackle pupils’ inequalities of outcome in Scotland. There is clear evidence those children from low income households do significantly worse at school than those from better-off households and that this gap starts early and grows. There is also widespread agreement in Scotland that this gap is unacceptable. Our submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee shows, there is no indication that the resources needed to close the inequality gap are being calculated, far less allocated. It not only harms the individuals who do not achieve their full potential but harms our whole society and economy. While UNISON has no real issues with the content of the Bill we are concerned that it contains no specific policies or funding focused on achieving that aim, as we have explained here. Fine words are, well, fine… but it’s budgets that matter. ( see above )
Stage 3 Proceedings: Carers (Scotland) Bill
UNISON members deliver a wide range of services in the public, community and private sector, these members are also tax payers, service users and often carers themselves. We recognise the importance of supporting carers as they can hold families together and allow those they care for to get the most out of life. UNISON members are well aware of the difficulties faced by carers who struggle to look after older, disabled or ill family members often on their own, as they are the people who currently assess them for the current Carers’ Assessment and will continue to do so when the Carers’ (Scotland) Act is implemented. While we support many aspects of this bill, we also have a number of concerns, we have set out in our submission to the Scottish Government. Addressing any of these concerns becomes more difficult as cuts are made to public services . (see above)
Procurement Scotland Regulations(2016)
The regulations accompanying the Procurement Bill have been published. They could be stronger in tackling companies that want public cash but go in for tax dodging. Why is the Scottish Government is not using powers that it has for mandatory, rather than discretionary, exclusion of companies that have not met their tax obligations and /or breached environmental, social and labour laws, and to exclude companies involved in aggressive tax avoidance? Right now we need to be encouraging companies to pay a fair share of tax in any way we can (see above).
Breakthrough on Zero Hours Contracts by Argyll & Bute UNISON
UNISON will run its fifth annual safe NHS staffing levels survey on 9 February.
More details here.
Our briefing on how relaxing borrowing rules for councils could save costs of up to £50 million.
East Dunbartonshire UNISON members petition against £100 car parking charges.
Good News on the Scottish job front? Aye, well, sort of…..
New for 2016 – Core Stewards training programme.
PICK OF THE MEDIA
How the loss of libraries is another sure fire way to entrench inequality.
UNISON’s Dave Prentis on how Osborne’s Fake ‘Living Wage’ could trap many in poverty.
Government backbenchers rebelling about Govt austerity cuts to councils not here, sadly
Shifting The Curve will mean shifting away from cuts.
Council Tax Freeze is fully funded – part 234 (Scottish government faced a 10% cut to its budget over the last five years, yet councils face a 24% cut)
Why new strike legislation could lead to more discontent – and more walkouts.
Tax cuts for the rich, public services cut for everyone else.
217/02/2016Trident renewal is such a bad and very very very expensive thing to do
just say no
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