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Thurs 10 February 2011

"Don't handcuff our councils" says UNISON Scotland

UNISON Scotland says Government moves to dictate how council budgets are spent is effectively 'handcuffing' local authorities and sounds the death knell for democracy.

Today, in the Scottish Parliament, MSPs will be debating the Local Government Finance Order which will determine the budget allocation for councils in Scotland for the financial year 2011-2012.

In November's draft budget, the Government presented councils with a Hobson's choice: deliver key SNP policies, such as freezing the council tax and maintaining police numbers, or face an even bigger cut in your budget allocation.

The Government claimed that councils who signed up to the 'package' of Government priorities would face a cut of 2.6 per cent, while councils who did not would face a cut of 6.4 per cent.

UNISON has branded the move a veiled attempt to turn local government into the administrative arm of central government and is urging councils to set a needs-based budget based on local need, not government dictat.

Trade unionists, community groups and members of the public will be lobbying council meetings across Scotland today to urge their elected members to put the needs of their communities first when setting their budgets.

Mike Kirby, UNISON's Scottish Secretary, said: "To let the government dictate how council funds are spent is absolute madness and sounds the death knell for democracy.

"Democracy is the defining difference between public and private services and it is vital local authorities are able to allocate funds based on the local needs of their communities, not political ideology.

"This move by the Government is an attempt to handcuff our councils and our elected officials need to stand up for their communities and set a needs-based budget that protects our public services."

ENDS

Notes to editors

UNISON has consistently challenged the need for cuts which it says are based on politics, not economics. The union has also condemned a continued council tax freeze as it prevents councils from raising vital funds and at the same time provides a real-terms tax cut to the wealthiest homeowners at the expense of vital services.

UNISON has branded the Government's demands to recruit 1,000 extra police officers a "cosmetic political exercise". Giving priority to maintaining police numbers in a declining police budget simply means that large numbers of police (civilian) staffs will be cut. This will mean fewer police on our streets as they are taken off normal duties to perform administrative and specialist tasks they are not qualified to do at a greater financial cost to the public.

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