09/01/2016

Council Cuts- Cuts to Communities

There is often a lazy way of presenting the work of councils that suggests that there is fat that could be cut and always more efficiencies to be made.  Surely no serious observer can think this now.  There are to be £23million worth of cuts in Dundee in the next financial year.  All staff, except teachers, have been asked to think about 'voluntary' redundancy.  These 'cuts', 'efficiencies', 'restructures' or whatever else you want to call them impact on communities.  Taking £23million out of the council's budget will have an impact on every community in Dundee.  In other circumstances job losses on this scale would rightly lead to MPs and MSPs standing outside an office or a factory gate campaigning against the job losses.  Can we expect that in the City Square any time soon?

These cuts are about political priorities and political choices.  John Swinney chose to pass on more cuts to local government as the report to go to Dundee City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening makes clear.  You can read the whole report here (pages 3-11 of the pdf) but the relevant paragraphs are below

"8.1 The outcome of the Westminster Spending Review was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 November 2015. The Scottish Budget totals show a cash increase of £1 billion (3.3%) between 2015/16 and 2019/20, largely due to the Barnett consequentials of  changes to other Whitehall departmental budgets. When adjusted for projected inflation,
however, this represents a real terms reduction of 4.1%. For 2016/17, the year-on-year cash increase is £0.5 billion (1.7%), which represents a standstill budget in real terms.

8.2 The recent grant announcements by the Scottish Government reflect the outcome of the Westminster Spending Review. The figures announced by the Scottish Government are in respect of the 2016/17 financial year only: no figures are currently available beyond this
point. It is anticipated that the Scottish Government will undertake a Spending Review covering the period 2017 to 2020, although the timescale for this review is not yet known.
 
8.3 As noted in paragraph 5.2 above, the local government grant settlement for 2016/17 reflects an overall cash cut at national level of £350 million, or 3.5%."
 
As you will see there was actually a cash increase in Scotland's budget, which given inflation and other pressures represents a standstill budget but a national cut of 3.5% has been inflicted on local government.  The cuts to local government and to communities in Dundee are a political choice.  John Swinney chose to deliver a budget like this which will cut jobs and services across Dundee.
 
The staff of the council deserve to know where the cuts are going to impact.  They should not be left worrying about their jobs for weeks on end.  Trade unions in Dundee are getting together to protest about these cuts and I hope that there is a large turnout for their campaign.
 


Still campaigning for a Living Wage (and against zero-hours contracts as well!)

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/dundee/sports-direct-criticised-for-still-using-zero-hours-contracts-1.918448
Earlier this week I was asked by the Courier to comment on the plans by Sports Direct to ensure that it was paying more than the Minimum Wage, this came after some investigations appeared to suggest that Sports Direct was in fact paying less than the Living Wage by making staff turn-up earlier than the time they were paid from.  It is remarkable that a company which is represented on just about every high street could be behaving like that in 2016.

It is worth remembering that prior to the 1997 Labour Government there was no National Minimum Wage.  The minimum wage was delivered by Labour and is evidence of why we need Labour Governments in Holyrood and Westminster.

I have campaigned for the Living Wage and was responsible for pushing Dundee City Council into paying the Living Wage and also pressing for the council to take the lead and ensure that Dundee becomes a Living Wage Economy.

I think that it is good that Sports Direct pay more than the Minimum Wage, I think they should be moving towards a Living Wage.  I also want to say that George Osborne's so-called National Living Wage is no such thing - it is a rise in the rate of the Minimum Wage for people over 25.  I want to see movement towards a real Living Wage set at a rate agreed by an independent body.

People also need to know how many hours they will be expected to work and also need a clear idea of what their earnings will be.  Most people have a set of basic fixed costs such as accommodation, utilities, council tax plus the necessity to feed and clothe themselves if they don't have certainty over their earnings this is very difficult.  I think there is a need for action at all levels against zero-hours contracts.  When Sports Direct applied for planning permission for a new shop in Lochee I tried to move an amendment which would have banned zero-hours contracts.  I think that it is daft that the council can make statements against zero-hours contracts but when it comes to regulations which we impose we were powerless.  I asked the Scottish Government if they planned to do anything about this and was told that they did not.  The easiest and most straightforward place to get rid of zero-hours contracts would be at Westminster, only a Labour Government will achieve that.

I want to deliver decent jobs for everyone.