Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy: Scotland's councils to run out of cash reserves 'within two to three years', 10 years of mismanagement, lack of vision and reform are coming home to roost, the SNP are too ‘Holyrood’ focussed on keeping their MSP jobs to the detriment of local government, constant denial of problems is not governance or management

Dear All

Under the SNP, the government in Scotland at national and local level has been mismanaged, you could put forward many reasons but the chief reason is a lack of vision by the leadership of the SNP under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

The reasons that Councils suffer greatly is down to what I would suggest is the ‘Holyrood’ focus, the SNP MSP leaders are focussed on protecting their seats and clinging onto power that Councils are being staved of funds. A long time ago, I blogged on how councils should be allowed to take the money from the Scottish Government in their poll tax freeze but also have a 3% increase to build up reserves.

You may remember my idea for a City Sovereign Fund?

If not then please take the time to read the back post.


2011, at this point, I was still in the SNP, but when I tried to publish the idea on the SNP forum, the post I put up was disallowed, it seems that as a rank and file member, I wasn’t allowed to have ideas above my station.

So, here we are in 2017, six years on from my original idea and Scotland's councils are said to be going to run out of cash reserves 'within two to three years'. The lack of vision by Nicola Sturgeon for big ideas of a radical nature comes home to roost like chickens.

Why are cash reserves at some councils risk running out “within two to three years”?

They have been forced to dip into the ‘piggybank’ as they struggle to cope with funding cuts and increasing demand for services, the joined up thinking which we assume is supposed to happen just isn’t there. SNP thinking is and always will be short term because instead of being driven by vision, they are driven by events, which is why you have money flung at Govanhill. Not to help the residents of Nicola Sturgeon’s slum ghetto, but to get the spotlight off Sturgeon herself.

It is a complete nonsense that the 20 local authorities have had drawn on financial reserves for day-to-day spending in 2016/17.

It isn’t like this is a new problem, cash reserves should be there for emergencies, and ‘daily spend’ should not fall into that category.

So, what is the SNP plan to fix this scandal, well, nothing is the modius operandi, as the SNP push through their 7.6 per cent cut in Scottish Government funding for councils since 2010/11. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP used the lie of efficiency savings onto councils which translates into poor services, longer waiting times, denial of service and job losses, all so they can say they are ‘managing’ the government funds prudently.

A report shows the scale of impending disaster just waiting to happen, with local authorities’ net debt now standing at £14.5 billion.

The Accounts Commission added:

“Councils tell us that they are finding the situation more serious than ever, with savings becoming increasingly difficult to identify and achieve.”

When you are devoid of vision as the SNP are, they use the tactic of fostering the decisions onto councils under the guise of ‘they make decisions on their budget priorities’.

The truth is the SNP mismanaged the money they were given.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

"We are already hearing reports of councils contemplating extreme measures like moving to monthly bin collection or closing every library in the local authority.
"Councils are burning through their reserves at a rapid rate. This is not sustainable."
The Accounts Commission’s financial overview for 2016/17 found councils were showing signs of “increasing financial stress”.

Another idea of mine was to use people who went through the justice system to do community service in councils, two main reasons, one to add additional human resources and two, to reduce the prison population which cost the taxpayer about £42k a year to lock someone up.

There would also be the added bonus of opportunity for rehabilitation of offenders which would benefit them, if they seize the opportunity. Local authorities are facing a “growing range of budgetary pressures”, including funding cuts and “ongoing demand pressures” such as an ageing population but solutions can be found as well as money. There hasn’t been the will to fix councils because the parties fix on a ‘policy’ rather than structural change.

In the last financial year alone, councils slashed 2,200 jobs, this places an added burden on the staff left who see increased workload, we should be protecting public services especially councils which are the first direct contact for many issues by residents. The debt levels have increased by £836 million, with councils spending almost ten per cent of their revenue budgets servicing these bills.

Awhile ago, David Cameron floated ‘Big Society’, an idea that I agreed with but the SNP rubbished it because it was a Conservative idea. Good ideas aren’t the province of any one party but to turn this idea down out of prejudice was wrong.  

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Alexander Stewart wants the SNP to do something and wants them to provide “far more support to councils right across the country”.

He said:

“Under the SNP government, the financial health of Scotland’s 32 councils has deteriorated rapidly. Debt levels are eye-watering, and millions upon millions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash is now being used just to service it. We’ve even got to the stage where local authorities are dipping into the rainy day fund routinely just to stay afloat. And as auditors say, if that continues, there won’t be any reserves left to call on.”

So, having shouted the odds, the Scottish Conservatives need to take the next step, what would you do?

That is the ‘tricky’ part for them.

Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the report “lays bare the impact of Tory and SNP austerity on our local authorities”.

She added:

“After a decade of SNP government in Holyrood, our councils are at breaking point with rapidly shrinking budgets and sky-high debts. The truth is this is what happens when we have a government in Edinburgh happy to sit on their hands and pass Tory austerity onto our communities, with the SNP cutting local government budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011.”

It is worthwhile pointing out that no political party that has held power at Holyrood comes out of this with any glory, but rather than accept their part, the SNP Government are defended its funding record.

He said:

“We have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government. Including the extra £250 million to support the integration of health and social care, the overall reduction in local government funding in 2016/17 equated to less than 1 per cent of local government’s total estimated expenditure. The 2017/18 local government finance settlement, including the increase in council tax and Health and Social Care Integration funding, means that local government have an extra £383 million, or 3.7 per cent, in support for services compared to 2016/17.”

Everything you need to know about why the SNP need to be removed from government is right in front of your face, day in and day out, councils are failing, and rather than rebuild the council reserves, the SNP are still playing in their sandbox, playing at government, playing with Scotland’s future, and ultimately the well being of you and your family.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University


Anonymous said...

fantastic piece George

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

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