Important - Lobby against Cuts (Thursday 15th Dec)
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.