Andrew_Burns_9_200x200Andrew Burns, leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, says the Scottish Government’s disdain for local democracy is a disgrace, and reveals an organisation operating by threat, not consensus.

 

I got a letter yesterday.

It’s from someone who works for a government that directly controls around 80% of my council’s funding. The same person works in an institution that has frozen any capacity for councils to influence the ‘envelope’ of the remaining 20%.

Basically, this means that, despite growing service demands on councils, central government controls almost all of our funding.

The letter tells me that I will only get my annual grant settlement this year if our council does 3 things. Can I be clear: these are not, per se, bad things to pursue.

  • Spend specific ring-fenced monies on integrated health and social care.
  • Spend specific ring-fenced monies on support for teachers.
  • Not flex the ‘envelope’ in relation to the 20% of revenue I notionally control.

If I don’t accept these conditions (as a complete package) here’s what it would mean for Edinburgh:

  • We will be penalised and lose some £20 million of funding.
  • We will be penalised and lose some £6 million of funding.
  • We will be penalised and lose some £7 million of funding.

So. If we don’t do all of these things, as a complete package, then Edinburgh will lose £33 million of funding. That’s equivalent to a 14% rise in Council Tax.

Now as I said, these three thing are not, per se, bad things to pursue. But I don’t really have a choice, do I? Despite having been democratically elected to make precisely these choices.

For me, as someone committed to the delivery of local public services with no interest in ever being a Holyrood or Westminster legislator (as that’s what they’re supposed to do there) the letter is a complete disgrace. It makes an utter mockery of any semblance of a belief in local democracy.

Shame on those who wrote it, as they know full well what they’re doing: centrally directing local services.

What a truly sad day for local democracy in Scotland.

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34 thoughts on “I got a letter yesterday

  1. Since the COSLA agreement of 2008 where the Labour controlled COSLA negotiating teams asked for a removal of the ring-fencing of the Education Budget.

    The minority SNP Government agreed to this as it was convinced that this would allow councils greater flexibility, on the proviso that front line teaching numbers, overall staffing and budgets would be maintained.

    In the intervening 8 years the Labour controlled councils repeatedly reneged on this promise!

    Year on year staffing levels and budgets made available to front line school departments has been cut and staffing squeezed tighter and tighter and it is still going on today, with recent strike action by teacher to oppose this.

    The recent additional £40 million made available to councils for additional teachers was the focus of Labour controlled COSLA ire as there was the insistence the money actually went to boost teacher numbers, rather than those councils being allowed to spend it as they like.

    Time and again Labour has cut Education staffing at council level then used it to blame the Scottish Government for the fall in numbers – even though staffing is directly controlled by councils

    Labour run councils and Councillors have shown repeatedly over time that the cannot be trusted to spend the money given to them by the Scottish Government for an intended purpose, without severe restrictions being placed on the money to ensure it goes where it is supposed to.
    If given the chance Labour councils have spent the budget elsewhere then blamed the Scottish Government for not supplying the funding….

    Maybe had Labour committed to upholding their part of the negotiations instead of playing a “Wreck the SNP at all costs” game with Education – you would not be in this mess

    1. Did you even stop for a moment to think this through, or were you just so keen to get in a pro-SNP anti-Labour comment you were prepared to write anything?

      You just claimed the SNP agreed to remove ring-fencing “on the proviso that … budgets would be maintained”.

      In what possible sense is that a removal of ring-fencing?

      You should speak to some SNP folk in local government. Despite years of staying tight-lipped out of loyalty to the party and desperation for the cause, even they are beginning to admit that this “fully funded” (yes, we’ve all seen SPICe, no, it doesn’t prove what you think) CT freeze and this horrendous, iniquitous series of budget cuts to local government way greater than the cuts to the block grant, are destroying local government and leaving councils simply unable to deliver services to those who need them.

      The story here is that Swinney is threatening to cut *even more* – £33 million more! – unless the City of Edinburgh, a democratically elected council, jumps to central government’s tune.

      Anyone who values local democracy should be appalled. The fact that you just keep singing the SNP’s praises shows you for what you are.

      1. “You just claimed the SNP agreed to remove ring-fencing “on the proviso that … budgets would be maintained”.

        In what possible sense is that a removal of ring-fencing?”

        It means councils have more flexibility and control to manage day to day budgets, and dip into education if needed to cover an emerging situation and replace the money later

        that still doesn’t overcome the truth that Cosla agreed to maintain the numbers of teachers and budgets then went back on their promise…….all as part of the Concordat

        Not the rest of your diatribe doesn’t even come close to addressing the fact that coucils are fully responsible for the anmount of money each school gets and the structure and number of Teachers……

        The Scottish government has no control over this……

        “iniquitous series of budget cuts to local government way greater than the cuts to the block grant”

        untrue again….the Department Expenditure Limit (DEL) for the Scottish government has been cut by 10% , proposed cuts to councils is 3.5% – a fair cut would be to pass 10% on to councils too – we’re better together after all.

        “The story here is that Swinney is threatening to cut *even more* – £33 million more!”

        Only if Labour coucils do what they have repeatedly done over the past 8 years – spent Government money on areas for which the money was not intended…..

        Work with Government priorities – you’ll get your money, work against them as Labour has repeatedly done – the money goes elswhere

        1. Classic piece of dishonesty there. DEL has been cut by 10% over FIVE years since 2011, and in fact held steady this year. The 3.5% cut to councils is in ONE year. This year.

          This sort of dishonesty really disgusts me. Your next comment needs to be an abject apology. My statement that the cuts to local government are way greater than the cuts to the block grant is entirely accurate, and you tried to deflect it with a lie.

          1. “This sort of dishonesty really disgusts me. ”

            Please point out at which point I said that it was a one year cut?
            Also point out at which point I lied – since you have admitted in this response that the 10% cut was over 5 years?

            also put that into context with the actual Scottish budget for the following years shows a real terms funding for coucils at

            £10,274.8 bn – for 2013-2014
            £10,586.7 bn – for 2014-2015

            The Scottish Government has a legal responsibility to produce accurate accounts signed of by the Crown.

            So….in the face of cuts the council budget has been protected and now you complain that the UK cuts (worse in England) are coming home to roost.

            In your own time

          2. You said:

            the Department Expenditure Limit (DEL) for the Scottish government has been cut by 10% , proposed cuts to councils is 3.5% – a fair cut would be to pass 10% on to councils too – we’re better together after all.

            If, as you now claim, you actually *knew* that the 10% figure was over 5 years but the 3.% was just one year’s cut, that makes it even worse that you pretended otherwise. Shame on you.

            The Scottish government hasn’t protected council funding, it’s slashed it. And you’re happy to lie to defend them.

          3. (reply button below conveniently disappears every time to give you the last word)
            you copied the comment

            “the Department Expenditure Limit (DEL) for the Scottish government has been cut by 10% , proposed cuts to councils is 3.5% – a fair cut would be to pass 10% on to councils too – we’re better together after all.”
            then said
            If, as you now claim, you actually *knew* that the 10% figure was over 5 years but the 3.% was just one year’s cut, that makes it even worse that you pretended otherwise. Shame on you.

            you were challenged to point out where i said the 10% cut was in one year only – the above comment from me doesn’t do this so again point out where I lied.

            and given that you have the following numbers confirmed by the crown as to money given by the Scottish Government to councils for the following years in real terms.

            £10,274.8 bn – for 2013-2014
            £10,586.7 bn – for 2014-2015

            and with a 3.5% cut this year as you say…hardly is a slashing….or do you think the government budget should be cut….English councils should be halfway through a 40% cut and only Labour run Scottish councils should have funding protected?

            A tad unrealistic

      2. As Galbraith says the SNP Govt removed most of the ring fencing previous Labour Govts had put in place or maintained while in charge at Holyrood giving councils unprecedented levels of flexibility on how to spend their budget.

        However on occasions the SNP Govt have given councils additional top-up funding to cover the additional cost of Central Govt initiatives such as teacher numbers. If a council accepts the additional funding on condition that it will maintain a level of teacher numbers then the SNP Govt are perfectly entitled to demand that money be returned if the council does not keep up it’s side of the deal which is what has been happening consistently.

        1. Galbraith said they were given no flexibility, that they had to stick to the same budget. Which was it?

          As for “top-up funding” – ha! The SNP have CUT council funding every year! How you can possibly suggests they have topped it up, and maintain a straight face, is beyond my understanding.

          The SNP have slashed council funding way beyond the levels the block grant has been cut. It would be good if at least that baseline truth was accepted by everyone contributing a comment.

          1. Not sure if you remember Duncan but we voted to stay in this Union with its Neo-Lib austerity agenda. Budgets are being cut all over, many of them supported or at least not objected to by the Labour party.

            So it’s hardly surprising that like the rest of the public sector council budgets have been cut but the facts that you’re choosing to ignore still remain.

            * The SNP Govt have removed most of Labour’s ring fencing off council budgets giving councils unprecedented freedom
            * Councils agreed to accept additional funding on top of their budget settlement in return for maintaining teacher numbers

            We are now in a situation where councils that reneged on the teacher number agreement after happily accepting the funds are now complaining because central govt isn’t falling for the same trick twice.

          2. If that’s true then why is there a 1.8 billion cash reserve fund available to local councils in Scotland?
            A fund topped up weekly by the Scottish Government?

          3. There isn’t. That appears to be a creation of your fevered imagination.

            Individual councils have reserves, but that makes no difference to the fact that central government is slashing their funding! Are you seriously arguing councils should run their reserves down to zero and have no contingencies for unexpected events? Reserves are there for a reason.

  2. I am angered by John Swinney’s controlling attitude. But not surprised. None of us should be. Nationalism is interested in the powers and prestige of the nation; that’s what nationalists are for. It’s absolutely top of their agenda and they are unshakeable in that belief. Fair enough.

    But here’s the danger – because they are so sure they are right, it follows others must of course always be wrong, whatever the facts say. Galbraith demonstrates that. That means having little respect for others views and certainly no interest in learning from them. By their nature, nationalists have little concern for democracy.

    Other centres of power, even of opinion, by their existence challenge nationalists’ belief in their own rightness – and therefore the powers and prestige of the nation. And so must be squashed. Councils are the main victims, being elected. But we’ve seen it too in the hobbling of college boards, in the attempts to control universities and their staff, in the more subtle trading of grants and contracts for silence from voluntary organisations and businesses.

    Not all SNP supporters are nationalists in this mould (notably the Edinburgh SNP councillors who have spoken out against Swinney on this). And not all nationalists are SNP supporters. So it’s not a straight party battle. But I can see that Labour – and others – are really going to have to put the protection and extension of Scottish democracy high on their list of campaign messages.

    1. But here’s the danger – because they are so sure they are right, it follows others must of course always be wrong, whatever the facts say. Galbraith demonstrates that. That means having little respect for others views and certainly no interest in learning from them.

      Odd that – presenting a series of facts that are easily verified and contradict not only this article but the response to them are taken as having little respect for others views

      Is that how it works?

      To show respect to Labour and their supporters one has to agree with them – especially when wrong?

      if you wish to challenge nationalists’ belief in their own rightness then stack up your facts and present them for scrutiny

      You will have to do this in order to make me learn from your position

  3. El Capitano has pressed the button on the conveyor belt and one of the Edinburgh Mafia Scottish Labour section Red Tories is SNP rolled out whinging the usual SNP Bad Bad Bad. I was sure that I already had this novelty record in my collection but was surprised to see it had been rereleased and went straight into the top ten of the whingers chart at number one, so it’s a big hit and what’s more they say that Big Bad Burnsy is playing live gigs on the Edinburgh scene oh sorry that shoud have been his true title Big SNP Bad Burnsy it’s a hot ticket and they are all sold out. It seems that Burnsy lyrics to the number “Its not Fair” need to be heard to be believed the finally of the show brings the curtain down with the prophetic number “Letter” which have the prophetic lyrics “I was a leader until the good folks of Edinburgh got rid of me I knew my time was up for sure when I received the letter” I am looking forward to his new album that it is rumoured is a retrospective look back at the existence of the now extinct Scottish Labour section with the new poignant number penned “Better Together the End”

      1. Your bang on there how I missed that one I will never know I just downloaded the beat from the Iamawhingers.tunes and have it on my iPod the high notes on this number sound as if a Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooge has got their fingers jammed in a letter box Awooooooooh I really dig this beat. Did you ever hear the acoustic version of Red Tory Blue the lyrics that particularly stand out is “I am a Red Tory that is true but oh my Blue Tory comrades I will always support you” just listening to it at the moment it has a very earthy feel to it I really dig this beat.

          1. I like the new upbeats jazz funk version the hit single “Take Another Look” by Kezia and the Kool Kats the lyrics are so meaningful especially the chorus that goes “I can run the Govenment oh your having a laugh, I can’t run the Government I can’t even run a bath” Some folks say I whinge that’s not true nor am I a sourpuss I can tell you Take another look. When I heard this wonderful beat for the first time it moved me so much I had to have a cup of juppa and a biscuit isn’t life so sweet.

  4. I’m sure the good folks in Morningside could afford a few extra pennies towards helping the poorer sections of Edinburgh.
    Glasgow’s problem is the two rotten burghs to the north and south of the city.
    Why should council tax payers in East Ren bleed Glasgow dry?

  5. I would be interested in some FACTUAL information.
    What % of cuts to local government finances has occurred in England since 2011.
    What % of cuts to local government finances has occurred in Scotland since 2011.

    When will Scottish Labour tell us what their proposed changes to the council tax will be. They have been hatching this egg for a decade, now.

    Does Scottish Labour think there should be NATIONAL standards of education in Scotland? If they do, then do they agree that education should have similar levels of funding and staffing throughout Scotland?
    We know that Labour led the way in England in removing education from democratic council control. Do they propose the same thing in Scotland?

  6. Thought for a minute we were going to burst into a rendition of Tricky’s Black Steel.

    I got a letter from the government
    The other day
    I opened and read it
    It said they were suckers

    Dissapointed

  7. One of the SNPs greatest achievements in their illustrious history was removing the despotic power of the Labour party in Scotland preventing them from continuously systematically and dogmatically raising our taxation burden over and over and over and over again and again and again and again.

    An achievement at risk if Labour at local level is ever once again to be allowed unfettered power to raise our already overwhelming taxation burden.

    The Scottish Government has shown and proven the country can be run efficiently properly and competently without having to raise taxation way beyond what most people can afford to pay and that’s why we get nothing but SNP bad from the opposition who have nothing absolutely nothing to offer as a viable alternative.

    Their only answer is to offer suffering targeted austerity coupled with increased taxation.

    And all if it so they can warmonger procure WMDs retain the privilege and patronage of the House of Lords.

    Red Tory Blue Tory Orange Tory. A disunion of Tories for Tories

      1. Sorry Andrew but for virtually all the time I have been politically aware Labour has been far more of a centralising party exercising power from the centre.

        1. Who’s centre? Tony Blair crossed what used to be a centre ground in politics and made his party another right wing Tory party so where were the blue Conservatives Tories going to go except further over to the right but not enough that there isn’t a very large overlap between the 3 main UK tory parties and UKIP.

          The Centre ground is somewhere way over to the left of the Lib Dems and bit right of the SNP.

    1. Mike the colour theme is interesting I think there is a strong possibility that we have discovered a new political species which is a hybrid of the Red Tory and the Blue Tory the colours mixed together are either Violet or Purple so you can have the honour of picking the official colour of the new hybrid Tory.

      1. “There isn’t. That appears to be a creation of your fevered imagination.”

        Yes there is and you know it. Did you create this site just to you could lie your arse off publically?

  8. “Reserves are there for a reason.”

    Oh you mean like compensating people for flooding damage?

    1. No, I mean dealing with flood damage, setting up emergency shelters, supporting people affected.

      1. Which Dumfries Labour council wasn’t prepared to do until it had wheedled more money out of the Scottish Government or used that as an excuse to not deliver on the Scottish Governments promise of the 1500 per case.

        A despicable piece of party politick deliberately refusing to alleviate the suffering of their own constituents in order to try and manufacture blame towards the Government.

        A new day a new Labour party corruption.

        And this is how you hope to win back the electorate.

        Morons.

        1. What happend in Dumfries was bad enough for the folks to endure but what followed by the Scottish Labour section Red Tories beggars belief to use the plight of the good folks of Dumfries for political gain made me feel queasy it is gutter politics of the lowest level as the Red Tories shall find out when the good folks of Dumfries give them the boot at the next council elections.

  9. El Capitano I have to commend Kez for her resilience of keeping control of the last remnants of the Scottish Labour section Red Tories on the domestic side of running the branch office so far she has avoided the backstabbing clique lead by the two faced pseudo left wing careerist Rowley who at every opportunity is undermining her leadership and authority so on that I say good on you Kez, then on the national side she has seen off the attempt by Jez at head office the Muesli Munching Menshevik who I gather was slapped down at the recent presentation apparently when Jez got all uppity and authoritative Kez whipped a length of beef links out of her bag and swung them around and Jez slumped back subdued into his chair under no illusions as to who is is charge of the branch office so for that I commend Kez. I hear that Kezia and the Kool Kats have recorded her version of the song “Its My Party” with the change of lyrics that goes like this “I tried my best I never lied you gave me the boot and then I cried you would cry to if it happend to you” Goodbye and good luck Kez.

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