Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been accused of putting 400 jobs in Dumfries and Galloway at risk after he confirmed that the Scottish Government intends to go ahead with the biggest ever cut in council budgets.
In a letter to Council Leaders yesterday (27 January) the Deputy First Minister confirmed that the Scottish Government intends to press ahead with their proposed £500m cut in council funding for 2016/17 which means Dumfries and Galloway Council will have to find savings of £21.1m over the next year.
In his letter Mr Swinney also announced he will up the level of sanctions he intends to impose on any council that fails to accept the funding deal and tries to increase the Council Tax. Previously Councils were warned that if they increased council tax, they would lose their share of a £70m fund to freeze the council tax. For Dumfries and Galloway Council that would have been a loss of £1.8m .
However, Mr Swinney has now warned that an increase in Council Tax would result in him cutting a further £408m from Council budgets, losing not only lose any funding to freeze the council tax but also their share of funding for teachers and social care. Dumfries and Galloway Council would see their budget cut by a further £12.5m if they increased the Council Tax. That would mean the Council Tax would have to rise 20% just to recoup the £12.5 m extra cut, with no extra money from that rise going to services.
Earlier this month Councillors of all groups unanimoulsy agreed to write to John Swinney expressing concerns at the proposed cuts by the Scottish Government and inviting the Deputy First Minister to visit the region to see the impact the cuts would have. So far he has refused to reply to the invite but instead has written to Councils warning them that they must accept the funding deal by the 9 February or face tougher sanctions - even although this is before most councils set their budget. Dumfries and Galloway Council is scheduled to meet to agree a budget for the year ahead on 11 February.
With staff costs making up 43% of Dumfries and Galloway Councils spending, the planned cuts of £21.1m have prompted fears that up to 400 jobs could be axed in the region.
Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson said, “Despite the fact that the Scottish Government will see their budget rise by £500m during 2016/16 due to a 0.7% rise in their grant from the UK Government, the Scottish Government are determined to destroy local services by confirming they intend to press ahead with the biggest ever attack on local services by cutting £500m from Council budgets for next year. The Scottish Government rightly keep critcising the austerity of the UK Government. But the what the Scottish Government are proposing is austerity max for local councils and the impact will be devastating for local communities".
“Here in Dumfries and Galloway we will have to find £21.1m of cuts in our revenue budget alone and capital projects will be delayed and we have until 9 February to say we accept that deal. If we don’t accept the deal we risk seeing a further £12.5m being axed from our budget. These bully boy tactics by the SNP show an utter contempt for local services and local jobs”.
“COSLA estimates the cuts will mean 15,000 job losses across Scotland and the conservative estimate is that means 400 here in Dumfries and Galloway. We will work flat out to reduce that number and focus as much of our savings on areas that don't affect jobs but given that almost half of our budget is on staff costs there is no doubt that the Scottish Government’s budget will see hundreds of jobs being cut in our region. More than 400 jobs have already been axed by the council over the past five years due to Government cuts but to do the same again in one year will be devastating for the local economy and local businesses”.
“If a factory closed and announced that level of job loss we would see the government setting up taskforces and throwing money at helping people find alternative employment. But because it’s just council staff being cut they don’t care about the impact on people’s livelihoods , the local economy or on the services our communities rely on which will now need to cut”.