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Thursday 23rd
posted by Malcolm Burns in Britain

£444 million must be used to help cash-strapped councils

THE Scottish government was told to put its unspent money where its anti-austerity rhetoric is yesterday by using the £444 million underspend to help cash-strapped councils and defend vital public services.

Congress delegates unanimously backed a demand for a moratorium on public sector job cuts, and backed the People’s Assembly and other community campaigns for full employment and fair pay.

Edinburgh TUC’s Duncan Smith said: “People think the public sector has been saved north of the border in some miraculous way — but that’s just not the case.

“Unison Scotland estimates that the public sector workforce has shrunk by 50,000 since the economic crash — a crisis not of our making — including over 39,000 jobs in local government,” he said, at at time when “services are in crisis, many are already cut close and now some of them are cracking.” Edinburgh City Council is proposing cuts of £28.5m in 2015-16, £52m in 2016-17 and £67m in 2017-18.

“We have a Labour and SNP coalition in Edinburgh that — when elected — promised to reduce poverty and inequality.“

But the Trussell Trust tells us the number of people going to foodbanks has increased and we know there has been a massive expansion of people on the poverty line.”

Mr Smith called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to release the government’s underspent £444m, allow local authorities to unfreeze council tax for higher bands and renegotiate council debt repayments.

“It’s no use having high-minded phrases about ending austerity when in reality services are being cut. “The Scottish government has underspent by over £444m — what is all that about?

“We demand these services are properly funded because they are so vital to our people.”Fife TUC’s Tam Kirby urged delegates to get involved in anti-austerity campaigning with the People’s Assembly.

He said: “Fife People’s Assembly and the local TUC have been campaigning vigorously against the cuts and we have got both SNP and Labour groups to pass motions against austerity and calling for an end to benefits cuts.“The message is: support your local People’s Assembly,  and if you’ve not got one, start one!”