Budget: Leaked document reveals 'potential job losses on a massive scale' in councils
MORE than 7,000 council workers look set to be made redundant as a result of Scottish Government budget cuts, according to a leaked paper.
A survey of council leaders carried out by umbrella body Cosla at the end of last year found that if the draft settlement outlined by John Swinney in December was “taken forward and approved” by MSPs then “7,100 FTE reductions over the next three years could be the result."
The paper said leisure, culture, sports and arts would see large reductions, taking "proportionally more than their fare share".
Around a third of the jobs lost would be roles in education - though the survey responses came before ministers said they would penalise local authorities that fail to recruit more teachers.
The figures were obtained by Labour leader Anas Sarwar who raised them during Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions, ahead of the first stage debate on the budget.
He said the government had “shortchanged” local authorities for the past 15 years.
“It didn't matter if the Scottish Government's budget went up or down, local authorities had their budgets cut, and now they're at financial breaking point,” he said
Mr Sarwar pointed to a statement from senior SNP councillors warning of cuts to “pupil support staff, libraries, youth work and other vital services that support the attainment, health and wellbeing of children and young people.”
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“Why are these councils considering budget cuts? They're considering cuts because of decisions made by this government.”
The First Minister said the government had “allocated all of the resources we have at our disposal” in their draft budget.
She said they were increasing local government resources by over half a billion pounds.
“But if Anas Sarwar is saying that he thinks local government should get more money than that, then let him bring forward that proposal.
“But also tell us - because there is no unallocated pot of cash - tell us where we should take the extra money from? Should it be from the National Health Service? Should it be from the police? Should it be from the central government education budgets?”
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Mr Sarwar said the money could be taken from all the “waste this government is doing.”
He said:”The vanity projects, the money hidden behind the sofa for the deal for the Greens, all that cuts that they've had right across this country.
"She knows that she has taken the decisions that have slashed council budgets because for 15 years, the SNP have underfunded councils, even when her ministers had more money to spend.”
He said people across Scotland were facing a “double whammy” of increased income taxes and hikes in council tax as councils looked to fill the holes in their coffers.
“That means taxes will go up not just for the richest, but almost every household in Scotland, but services will still be cut.
“And now a leaked COSLA document reveals potential job losses on a massive scale, they estimate over 7000 jobs will be lost. 7000.
“And this is what council leaders in her own party say, 'this budget settlement will have a detrimental impact of vital local services that will lead to the loss of jobs both within local authorities and within the local companies who supply goods and services to councils.' “
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“After 15 years of command and control things have gotten so bad that many of Nicola Sturgeon's own colleagues are no longer willing to blindly follow the orders,” he added.
“Her MPs have lost faith in the strategy. Her councillors have lost faith in our decisions and now her MSPs face a choice. Will they vote through these cuts? Or will they finally stand up for the local communities?”
The First Minister said the “problem” for Mr Sarwar was that it was “the verdict of the Scottish people that matters, which is why I'm standing here and he is sitting over there.”
She said the Labour leader did not yet “deserve to be taken seriously in these exchanges.”
“It’s absolutely correct to say that these are really difficult times for local government as they are for central government when it comes to the allocation of resources.
“We have put a draft budget before Parliament and I stress that word draft.
“Parliament is about to debate it, and all of the resources we have are allocated within that draft budget.
“So if it is Anas Sarwar's proposition that he would like to see more money go to local government then that is a legitimate proposal to make, but he has to say where he wants us to take that money from because it would have to come from the National Health Service or the police budget, or other budgets.”
Ms Sturgeon said if the Labour leader could do that then they could “have a proper grown-up discussion.”
The figures in the leaked Cosla document were based on the results from 23 of Scotland's 32 councils. The note said that there could be wide discrepancies between authorities with four councils expecting zero job losses.