STUC to support local government union lobby of Holyrood (3rd February at 1pm)

February 3rd 2016

The STUC has released details of its asks of Government and the key political parties ahead of a lobby of Holyrood on the local authority settlement.

The asks include the immediate ending of the Council Tax Freeze and reform of the Small Business Bonus scheme to provide much needed support for cash starved local authorities. The STUC is also calling on councils to honour agreements on pupil/teacher ratios and to agree to ensure the Living Wage is paid to all care workers.

The STUC is also calling on political parties to accept a range of policies for swift implementation following the election including local tax reform and a relaxation of the rules for local authorities for borrowing, lending and the repayment of loans.

STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said:

“The Scottish Government has been placed in a very difficult position as a result of the UK Government’s continuing austerity agenda. This year’s settlement was even worse than most were predicting. However, this cannot obscure the fact that the settlement for local government is particularly bad and councils are effectively being denied to opportunity to raise their own revenue to protect services and jobs.

“The insistence on the Council Tax Freeze and the ill-targeted and ineffective Small Business Bonus scheme is at a cost of approaching £200 million per year. If the Scottish Government insists on continuing these policies, other means of raising income will have to be found.”

Action required on local government funding and reform

Local government budget should maintain its percentage share of the overall Scottish Budget, requiring a cash boost for local authorities of 1.7% 2016-2017

An immediate end to the Council Tax Freeze and all conditionality attached to the current settlement. An undertaking from Scottish local authorities to increase Council Tax by at least 3% in the case that conditionality is removed.

Scottish local authorities and the Government should unite and approach the other devolved legislatures and English councils to coordinate a campaign of political opposition to the ongoing attacks on local government being waged by the Conservative Government.

Local authorities to publish parallel budgets to identify the true cost of maintaining services at adequate levels and protecting public service worker jobs.

An undertaking from all local authorities that action proposed by the Scottish Government to ensure at least the Living Wage for all care workers in the direct and contracted sector will be honoured.

An undertaking by councils to accept and implement Scottish Government funded proposals on pupil/teacher ratios.

Urgent action to reform Council Tax banding to make the tax more progressive and swift implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Local Tax Reform.

Business rates to be returned to local authority control.

An immediate and urgent review of the Small Business Bonus scheme with the aim of abolishment or major reform to provide additional resources for local services and targeted grants for local job creation.

Creation of a Scottish Government and COSLA group to take forward the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Local Democracy, with full union involvement.

An urgent review of local authority charges for services and an undertaking to reduce or eliminate charges in all cases that these can be demonstrated to be fiscally regressive.

Commitment when new tax powers are introduced to increase the top rate of income tax and give urgent consideration to increase general levels of income tax to protect key services.

A debt amnesty for Local Authorities and a commitment to push ahead with proposed new financial powers for Scottish councils to relax the rules for borrowing, lending and the repayment of loans estimated by Unison Scotland as saving Scottish councils upwards of £50million, or save over 1000 jobs.

ENDS

For further information please contact Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100

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