Unions head for Holyrood with plea to end SNP cuts to public services
The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood; Cllr Jonathan McColl; Cllr Ian Dickson; Cllr Jim Bollan; Cllr David McBride and the Burgh Hall in Dumbarton.
By Bill Heaney
The Labour Group on West Dunbartonshire Council have called for “an end to the year on year cuts to public services”.
The demand follows the debacle which followed the SNP administration’s austerity measures, which caused unprecedented controversy this year.
Labour want a better deal not just for the public who were put through the SNP wringer this year but for council employees from fire fighters to civil servants.
“We need fair pay and investment in the services they deliver,” said a spokesperson for the Unite trade union, who will be demonstrating outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.
Council workers from West Dunbartonshire will be in Edinburgh for Budget Day 2018 to press for a budget that restores pay, provides parity and protects public services.
Unions which will be represented include Unite Scotland, Educational Institute of Scotland, UNISON and GMB Scotland.
Cllr David McBride, who represents the deprived West End, told the monthly meeting of the Council in Dumbarton Burgh Hall: “All public services are on their knees, no longer running on the goodwill of our workers but on the fumes of goodwill.
“It can’t go on.”
He pointed the finger of blame for the austerity agenda and breakdown of basic council services on “this dreadful Tory government” in Westminster.
Cllr McBride said: “For the first time in a generation, we have Conservative representation here. We need to hear their voice.”
Conservative and Unionist councillors Sally Page and Brian Walker.
Addressing his remarks at the two shocked looking Conservatives on the Council – Cllrs Sally Page (Balloch) and Brian Walker (Dumbarton) – he added: “I invite you today to participate in this debate and provide an explanation for all these cuts to housing, education, hospitals, police and fire services that you – like the rest of us here – were elected to defend.
“For example, please explain when the last Labour government eradicated child poverty and rough sleeping, these have soared on your watch?
“Perhaps you can explain why this country has been held to ransom by 30-40 right wing, xenophobic extremists in parliament, from your party, who have brought this country to its knees?”
Cllr McBride named the Tory “big beasts” who were having “jolly japes” and causing chaos with Brexit while ordinary families were suffering.
He added: “When the dust settles on this disaster, I hope your party implodes and we are ridden for good of these selfish people who put themselves first in everything they touch.”
Millions of pounds were being slashed from the departmental budgets in West Dunbartonshire and cunningly described in the official council papers as “management adjustments”.
They were nothing of the kind, these were cuts pure and simple.
People here were faced with the ludicrous situation whereby the SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was stating in a letter to a member of the public that no cuts were required, while Jonathan McColl, the SNP council leader, was contradicting her and saying that they were.
It appears than an ill-informed civil servant in Edinburgh drafted the letter from the First Minister and posted it out without her having seen it – even though she had “signed” it.
Cllr McBride said: “Of course this is a political embarrassment for the SNP, but that’s not the point.
“We have had year upon year of cuts from the SNP government and Tory cuts from Westminster heaped on top of them.
“This has to stop. The Scottish Parliament – the devolved government – was set up to protect us from the evils foisted upon us by Westminster.”
This drop in financial support for Scotland from Westminster had plummeted in the past five years and a mega £744 million had been savagely sliced from councils by Holyrood to compensate for this.
West Dunbartonshire had suffered badly in all this austerity which had been exacerbated by the nine-year freeze on council tax imposed by the SNP, which deprived the council of about £11 million.
He added: “When SNP Ministers and councillors tell you they are all about council services, remind them of those nine years of council tax freeze.
“That money has been lost to us forever. We can never recover it.
“Don’t be fooled. The SNP government does not value the services we provide as a council.
“All we ask for from the Scottish government is a fair settlement within the constraints which they face.
“We haven’t had that. The SNP have let us down.”
Later, on social media, Brian Cunningham said: “Maybe [we should] try getting the Westminster government to increase Scotland’s budget?
“Well, we send £200 billion down south but only receive £37 billion back.”
He added that some of the government money allocated to councils in Scotland was mismanaged by health boards and local authorities – “or is this a political ploy by the Labour Party to get the unions to make it all the SNPs fault?”
And, on Facebook, Mary Batchelor warned councils and their employees not to get their hopes up for a satisfactory settlement – “Good luck everyone, but don’t get your hopes up. This might be a Nicky Grinch Christmas.”
The two Conservative councillors appeared dumbstruck by the volume and bitterness of the criticism hurled in their direction – and the SNP appeared mumbled and fudged their way through another report projecting where the council would be financially in ten years’ time.
The report indicated amongst many other things that there would be 45 redundancies amongst the council workforce, but there were no details in the paper and finance convener Cllr Ian Dickson refused to give any.
Cllr Jim Bollan said “The curtain had been drawn down on democracy in West Dunbartonshire.”
He accused the SNP of flaunting the council’s own standing orders (21A) which indicated elected members were permitted to ask for such details.
However, Cllr Dickson, who appeared flummoxed and almost inaudible, said that all councillors had been in possession of the committee papers since the previous Friday and that he had no intention of sitting there and “spoon feeding” councillors who should have read their papers before coming to the meeting.
- Some people I speak to say they are not interested in stories about finance and budgets. The reasons for this, they tell me, is that they don’t understand how the system works. Well, here is an explanation of the process which some people might call “idiot proof” – like those manuals on how to use a computer. Just click on this link and you are there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTS7y_lHDsk