Crisis meeting calls cuts ‘unacceptable’

Jim McCabe
Jim McCabe

Labour condemned the Scottish Government’s cuts to local authority budgets at a meeting hosted by North Lanarkshire Council on Friday.

Council leader Jim McCabe welcomed Finance spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP, Communities spokesman Ken Macintosh MSP, South Lanarkshire Council leader Eddie McAvoy and Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety.

Joining the politicians were representatives of trade unions who are fighting to retain the 15,000 council jobs across Scotland likely to be lost due to the cuts.

While Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP has increased spend for the likes of the NHS and Police Scotland, he has caused outrage amongst Labour by cutting council budgets by around four per cent.

In the wake of this announcement, last month North Lanarkshire Council passed a motion calling on the Scottish Government to set up a local government task force.

Similar to the one set up to attempt to aid the crisis in the Scottish steel industry it was hoped the task force would determine the impact on potential job losses and services within local authorities as a result of the cuts.

However, this was rejected by Communities Secretary Alex Neil.

In the wake of this, the North Lanarkshire Labour Group called the meeting as it fears that on top of the £45 million in cuts it has been consulting on due to Mr Swinney’s announcement they will be forced to find another £21 million.

This is in addition to the £22 million in savings which the council had previously identified bringing the total cuts for the next two years to £88 million.

The purpose of the meeting was for local and national politicians, as well as the unions, to condemn the Scottish Government cuts and assess options to avert the pending crisis facing local government.

Councillor McCabe, who chaired the meeting, said: “Councils across Scotland are getting a raw deal from the SNP Government, with North Lanarkshire among the worst.

“John Swinney’s recent statement indicates his intention to cut an additional £21 million from our budget – on top of the existing cuts we face. That is wholly unacceptable.

“The situation facing local government is at crisis point and the impact on services and jobs will likely be catastrophic.

“That is why in North Lanarkshire we passed a motion calling on the SNP Government to create a task force on local government, similar to the one created to fight for Steel Industry jobs; this has been refused by Alex Neil.

“I was pleased to host fellow Labour council leaders, MSPs and our trade union colleagues on Friday to assess all the options open to us at this time.

“Labour is desperate to protect as many services and jobs as possible and will be continuing to fight against these vile SNP Government cuts.”

Meanwhile, a second protest of Scottish councils at the Scottish Parliament is being planned.

Back in November, Labour councillors from North and South Lanarkshire were joined by colleagues from East Lothian, Inverclyde, Aberdeen and Edinburgh to demonstration the proposed cuts to local authority budgets.

This time it is hoped councillors from all 32 local authorities will be in attendance to send a clear message to the Scottish Government.