Local government services are buckling at the seams. All across the country we are seeing more and more strain being placed on public services. Since the SNP have come to Government, the number of elderly people in Scotland getting care at home has fallen 12%. Since 2011, the Government has cut more than £1billion from the budgets local services across Scotland. According to an Audit Scotland report, council’s across Scotland have had total revenue funding cut by the Scottish Government by 11%.
Of course we must acknowledged that the Scottish Government budget has fallen as a result of failed Tory austerity, however, whilst the SNP government budget fell by 6% the SNP chose to cut council services disproportionately by 11%. It cannot go on like this.
While these cuts continue to take hold, and widespread reductions in the numbers of staff working in public services continue, the demand on the services continues to increase placing even greater strain and pressure on the staff left to deliver the services. This is not sustainable.
We have a growing elderly population, but social care for them has been cut. We are seeing increased demand in youth services, but those services being cut. This failure to invest in councils who deliver children’s and social care services rebounds on our NHS, meaning more pressure on our hospitals. Ultimately these cuts mean less support for those who need it the most.
Labour has an alternative to SNP cuts to public services. We would scrap the unfair council tax and replace it with a fairer property tax which would leave two million households (80%) better off.
We have been honest with the Scottish public stating that if we are to stop the cuts and invest in public services then we need to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise additional funding. We would put 1p on income tax for those earning over £20,000.
This means if you are a nurse earning £25,047 you would pay £140 a year, and if an MSP earning £59,089 you would pay £481 a year, and finally if you are the First Minster being paid £144,687 you will pay an extra £1447.
On top of this, we will also devolve radical tax powers giving Councils the ability to raise up to £150m a year for local services. These tax powers – which Councils can choose to use – include a Tourist Tax, and a Land Value Tax on vacant, economically inactive land. Surplus from the Crown Estate will also be devolved to local government. The Government has had nearly a decade to keep their promise to scrap the council tax and have done nothing. We have a clear and fair alternative and would urge the SNP government to work with us to scrap the council tax. It is time to be bold on local tax reform.