The Scottish National Party got re-elected on a 5 year bribe to freeze council tax.
Upshot of ‘buying’ the vote is that local authorities are feeling the squeeze which the SNP has placed upon them.
Services are being cut as budgets are slashed.
The idea of a Council tax freeze on the surface appears populist, however who can agree that people like Nicola Sturgeon and her husband on the best part of a quarter of a million pounds a year should benefit from it.
Rich people shouldn’t be getting a council tax freeze or free prescriptions either.
A considerable time I ago I highlighted that the second term of this current government should have been about public sector reform, that didn’t happen, and oh how we are all feeling the effects of the SNP’s ‘Government on Pause’.
There is now no way that any realistic reform can take place before the Scottish independence referendum, and you can probably add nothing done until after Xmas 2014. So, if anything was to be considered then pencil in January 2015.
That is right January 2015.
Scotland has 32 councils, you could argue that some could be merged and the number drastically reduced, however is there the political will to do so, who knows; less Councils doesn’t mean less work. Some of the functions in the past have been mooted as being shared, a half way house; you could argue if that represents best value.
This sharing while caring in providing services in more "imaginative" and "creative" ways is supposed to keep the current system up and running, the reality is that the sinking feeling is still happening but less slower.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) said on the situation at present that "significant levels of savings" are required to made in the coming years will lead to service cuts.
At present Holyrood's Local Government Committee is taking evidence on the 2014/15 draft Budget from Solace and Local Government Directors of Finance (Scotland). They will only have one message to say, they need more, rather like Oliver in Oliver Twist.
Labour member Richard Baker has suggested a 4.8% resource budget cut and the continuing council-tax freeze meant that reductions in services and increases in charges would be "inevitable".
No Shit Sherlock; Mr. Baker has never impressed me, and he still doesn’t, stating the obvious hardly represents talent, can we see a solution in his future?
Elma Murray, chair of Solace and chief executive of North Ayrshire Council, said:
"My sense is that that is becoming increasingly difficult right now. I do think there are some things that we will have to stop or reduce to a very very limited level."
Ms Murray said an example of this was community centres which many councils help to fund and run. Personally at a time where communities need to stick together, it is rather short sighted to float this as an idea of merit.
"Local authorities have provided a lot of support in relation to community centres. I think it will become increasingly difficult for us to maintain that. That is an area that a lot of us are looking at very carefully."
Ian Lorimer, chair of Local Government Directors of Finance, said:
"Pay inflation, albeit at a modest level of 1%, is coming back in, so if we found it difficult to balance our budgets when pay inflation wasn't a factor, it's going to be that much harder to balance budgets in a situation where pay inflation does come back."
One wonders how much his take home pay comes out, I would assume that he isn’t one of the people suffering at present.
Finance Secretary John Swinney defended the funding deal local authorities get as he insisted continuing the council-tax freeze was a "priority" for the Scottish Government.
The priority is all about trying to build a consensus around a Yes vote.
SNP MSP John Wilson (not exactly one of life thinkers) said there were "constantly" calls from "from various leaders of local authorities throughout Scotland about how much better it would be if they were unshackled from the constraints of the council-tax freeze".
He can read wow!
The Council Tax freeze will continue through-out SNP Government term but ideal Councils should some leeway in any future deal possibly up to 3%.
And in future, the rich shouldn’t get a Council tax freeze or any of the other freebies which take away services from the most vulnerable in society.
People are suffering because the SNP wants to be ‘popular’ but they can’t carry on like that post 2016, hard choices have to be made, services need to be restored and who has the vision for that trick?
A new model for Government and local Government is required in order that both these institutions can generate revenue rather than just spend it.
And I am not just talking a couple of quid seems Alex Salmond is running out of ideas, but then he never had any real ones in the first place.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University