Monday, 18 February 2008

You don't get something for nothing

The SNP budget which passed through the Scottish Parliament the other week (thanks to support from the Scottish Tories) is already having a significant effect on Scotland - but not for the better.

Their most eye-catching and populist measure was an agreement with local authorities in Scotland to freeze levels of council tax this year. But there is a price to be paid, as shown by some of the measures which have had to be taken on the ground to achieve it.

Partly this is a matter of local authorities increasing some other charges to make up the shortfall. On Highland Council, for instance, the ruling SNP/Independent administration has increased burial charges by a whopping 50%. Taxing the dead to bribe the living is a new one.

But more common is the fact that councils have had to reduce some services, and Highland Council is no exception. The council has increased spending on elderly care, but at the cost of cuts to groups such as Age Concern Scotland, which has lost all its funding from the council. There are also cuts to the education budget in the Highlands. About 40 teaching posts are being lost, which is likely to hit rural schools the hardest. That, incidentally, is likely to make it more difficult for the SNP to achieve its goal of cutting class sizes.

Highland Council is also committed to a further £12.1 million of so-called 'efficiency savings', although these are not specified. I suspect that the detail will prove to be further cuts in services. In all, about 130 jobs are to go from the council.

And in case you think that Highland Council is an exceptional case, this report in The Herald makes clear that it isn't. The picture is the same across much of Scotland.

People know that you can't get something for nothing, so the SNP's gimmick of freezing the council tax may backfire when it sinks in just how badly public services in Scotland are affected. The story is cuts, cuts and more cuts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny you don't mention the Scottish Government's rates relief scheme deal also included in the budget which will benefit 14000 small companies in the Highland Council region alone. I would have thought the Party that likes to portray itself as the friend of small businesses would recognise this as a positive step and welcome the opportunity to encourage genuine and sustainable wealth creation for the whole area.

But I forget. The Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors' booklet`Effective Opposition' advises (and I paraphrase lightly)`be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly, don't be afraid to exaggerate.' Particulalry relevant is the advice that you should 'oppose all service cuts' as 'you are not running the council. It's NOT your problem.'

You know, that sounds a bit like how you claim the Tories are reacting to the NR debacle...

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