The parliamentary timetable has been dominated by the budget over the last few weeks with the stage one debate last Thursday seeing the budget approved with the SNP gaining the support of the Green MSPs. The deal that was on the table that the Greens took was to reduce the cuts to local councils. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) state that the deal reduces the cuts to councils to just under £200 million.
For Fife this means the cut in this year’s budget falls from £24.3 million to £15.4 million which is a cut of 2.5% in the council budget. These are large figures and there is a danger they are so big they become meaningless but for local people what it means is further cuts to schools and social care as well as youth services, street cleaning and general open space maintenance, along with less money to spend on supporting people to get training, skills, apprenticeships and jobs.
So cuts to council budgets are cuts to communities and that is why I stood firm against the cuts and put forward an alternative that would have stopped these cuts and created investment where it is needed. The Green deal with the SNP means the waiting times to get a care package in the community will continue to be unacceptable, as will the numbers of people trapped in hospitals when they should be cared for at home. In our schools there is not enough support for teaching and learning and the extra funding is simply not enough to address the need to support teachers and pupils to ensure every child gets the support in teaching and learning that they need to achieve their full potential. In all these areas of public service the front-line staff are run off their feet and the services are under immense pressure.
On top of this we have the ongoing cuts to parks and recreation, youth services, roads and the environment. And then we have the failure to invest in skills, in apprenticeships and in jobs. In most areas of our economy we have major skills shortages whether that is the building sector, the care sector, in teaching and in our health services, we are more and more dependent on bringing in skilled workers from abroad whilst people locally cannot get the skills they need to get the jobs.
These are the reasons I could not have voted for the SNP budget. It is not so much what was in it, as what was missing. We must be more ambitious for people and communities and after ten years of being in power the only thing the SNP seem ambitious for is their fixation with independence.