Comment: Tax, cuts and responsibility

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I make no apology for returning to the subject of the severe cut to East Renfrewshire`s budget by the Scottish Government.

I do so because every man, woman and child who lives in East Renfrewshire depends to some degree on the services provided by our Local Authority and John Swinney’s further cut will have a negative impact on every one of us living in East Renfrewshire.

The savings package over the three year period 1/4/15- 31/3/18, that the Scottish Government is forcing us to make, now totals almost £26 million pounds.

Indeed, the Scottish Government’s proposed national budget for this financial year which includes a £350 million pound cut to Scottish Local Authorities, is forcing a further £2.5 million cut to the East Renfrewshire indicative budget which we announced last year.

I know East Renfrewshire residents, many of whom participated in our public consultation exercise, will share my anger that Scottish Government is forcing further additional cuts to their public services at this late stage.

It is particularly galling that Scottish Councils should have such punitive financial threats made to them if they refuse to accept the so called “Offer” from Scottish Government.

In East Renfrewshire these financial sanctions would mean an additional £4.4 Million pound cut to our budget if we do not comply with the wishes of John Swinney. It is fundamentally undemocratic and makes a mockery of the so called Concordat with Local Government which used to be of some value to the Scottish Government.

I was pleased to see that Scottish Trade Unions with members who work in Local Government organised a demonstration against the proposed austerity budget when it was being debated by MSPs, and I along with other ERC Labour councillors, joined Labour councillors from all over Scotland to support our Trade Union colleagues whose jobs and wages are being so threatened by the Scottish Government’s austerity budget.

It is surely a good thing, that at long last MSPs are considering using the many powers available to them to fight austerity and mitigate the undesirable consequences to communities of continual cuts to budgets and services.

I welcome the recent announcement from both Kezia Dugdale of Scottish Labour and Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats to use the tax powers available to MSPs to fight austerity and protect frontline services and in particular to invest in Education.

None of us likes paying more tax, but I believe there is a growing awareness that we cannot continue to cut jobs and vital front line services, without eroding our quality of life in our local communities.

We cannot expect Norwegian quality public services based on Nebraskan tax levels. I welcome the debate on using the new powers available to our MSPs and it is refreshing to be able change the narrative of constantly blaming Westminster for all the ills of the world.

I look forward to MSPs taking responsibility for their own decisions and is it really too much to hope for, that MSPs who claim to be Social Democrats and willing to fight austerity, actually do something positive to end it.