Unison Scotland’s Dave Watson is correct to highlight the significant job losses facing our local authorities in response to budget cuts enforced by the SNP Government.
The current SNP Government has disregarded local democracy and taken the centralisation of powers to the extent that our local authorities can no longer even set their own budgets. Budgets have been slashed and our hard working councillors are left only with the power to decide which services must be cut.
Nationalists will claim that they are merely passing on Osborne’s cuts, but the reality is that councils are facing both Tory and SNP austerity. The SNP council tax freeze alone costs councils around £500m per year and, according to Unison, has resulted in the outsourcing of care homes (Inverclyde), the closure of school kitchens (South Ayrshire) and cuts in the number of learning disability centres (Glasgow).
It is not that our councils lack ideas, they simply lack resources. Notwithstanding this, they still aim high. In Edinburgh the council offers the “Edinburgh Guarantee” which aims to ensure that every young person will leave school with the choice of a job, training or further education opportunity available to them. In Glasgow a similar scheme exists, but includes those aged over 50 and former service personnel. In Renfrewshire the council has allocated £1.6m to closing the attainment gap – including a modest sum for helping parents with the cost of school trips and activities where needed.
To do more of this we must use the Holyrood 2016 elections as an opportunity to rebalance the relationship between our communities, local authorities and Holyrood. Our hard working councillors must be given the power to make a difference. They know where investment in housebuilding and job creation is best targeted better than any SNP Minister with a centralising “one size fits all” mentality which often turns out to be “one size fits none”. Let’s give out councils the chance to make a difference. Let’s invest in local democracy.