There are protests on Thursday 15th Dec both in Edinburgh, Lobbying Holyrood (from 10:30am) and here in Dundee, 5pm - City Square.
This is because the Scottish Govt will be determining how much money will be distributed to the various services, including each of the Local Authorities across Scotland.
It should be remembered that the Council Tax only delivers between about 8% to 15% of the revenue that local government uses to pay for it's services (and the jobs that deliver them). The vast majority of our income is dependent on the grants from government. This is initially set by the overall public spending figure passed to Scotland by the UK Government, then distributed by them (based on their own priorities) between Health, Police, Fire, NDPBs, Local Government etc.
Last year, a decision by the Scottish Government to prop up health spending meant the cut intended for it by Westminster fell on Local Government (on top of our own cut). This looks likely to be repeated again this year.
The end of the Council Tax Freeze (allowing an up to 3% rise in Council Tax) will only result in around an extra £1million for Dundee City.
This is against, we understand, at least another 5% cut in grant that last year equated to £23million.
Changes to Council Tax bands for higher priced properties will raise around £100 million across Scotland.
This is to be collected centrally and then redistributed exclusively for targeting the education attainment gap that has been set as a priority for the SNP nationally.
What share each authority gets will be based on their determined need - likely calculated based on number of children receiving free school meals.
Based on current figures this looks like it could be around £3-5million for Dundee. As it is ring-fenced, however, it won't do much to help budgets outside the Children and Families department.
At the same time, we were very early in submitting our pay claim this year that was essentially for a flat £1000 per annum on all points and a demand to finalise the implementation of the living wage.
The employers had promised a response/offer to come from their CoSLA leaders meeting on 13th Dec but they have subsequently said they will be too focussed on resolving the budget issues to make an offer before the end of January.
Unison has written to all the group leaders in CoSLA to express its anger at this development. Our Scottish Local Government Committee that was meant to meet on Monday 19th December to consider the expected offer, will now discuss our response to the employers' decision to stall. You will be aware that our Scottish Local Government Conference agreed that it would ballot for industrial action, if an acceptable offer was not made by February next year.
In Dundee, we are expecting to be told the top-line figures for Dundee City on Tuesday 20th December. It's unlikely this will involve any discussion about more detailed plans for savings but, given management have had an idea of the scale of the cuts, they will likely have been working up some ideas. We may be told if there are likely to be further redundancies (voluntary or otherwise). Again, our branch, last year established clear lines in the sand, whereby a ballot for industrial action would be triggered if there were attempts to impose changes to key terms and conditions.
We are in the midst of a serious battle for the future of our own jobs, pay and conditions and the very services we provide. It doesn't look like anyone but ourselves, acting together, can be relied on to change things for the better. We need to be prepared to take the action that will be needed to win that battle.
Much will depend on how resolute we appear about defending ourselves. Supporting the protests on Thursday will be an important start.
All Local Government Members on SJC terms please remember: (particularly if you are a current member of the Local Government (or similar) pension scheme)
Due to the introduction of the NEW State Pension, all members of workplace pension schemes like the LGPS, who formerly paid 1.4% less of their pay to National insurance (a rebate for being part of a "contracted out" scheme) will have lost that reduction as of 6th April 2016.
This reduction was for pay earned between around £8000 to £40000 per year. So, those of us who are members of the LGPS will see our take home pay reduced as that 1.4% rise in NIC is applied.
For those earning above around £20000, it will wipe out the 1% pay award for 2016/2017 and appear as an overall cut in take home pay.
The State Pension changes also ruled that those of us who were "contracted out" will not qualify for the Maximum amount if retiring immediately due to the "reduced" contributions we made in the past. This may, of course, be recovered over a few more years working and paying the full NIC.
This has no impact on the quite separate rights and benefits of the LGPS itself.
Hopefully this will make some sense of the changes but you can find out more at the Tayside Pension Fund Newsletter and more general LGPS advice from the Scottish LGPS website or The Scottish Public Pensions Agency or by speaking to your local pension team.