Sarah Boyack: SNP cuts place unfair burden on Edinburgh

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WE constantly hear from the Scottish Government that Edinburgh City Council is getting a good deal when it comes to local government funding.

But figures released last week by the politically neutral Scottish Parliament Information Centre painted a very different picture.

They showed the true impact of Scottish Government cuts in Edinburgh and revealed the uneven burden placed on the Capital when compared with most other parts of Scotland.

In real terms Scottish Government funding of councils has dropped by seven per cent, whereas it has been slashed by 13 per cent per person in Edinburgh since the SNP took power in 2007.

Edinburgh is a strong, growing city but the SNP’s cynical and unfair cuts undermine the efforts being made by Edinburgh’s Labour-led council to strengthen our local economy and support local services.

This is austerity plain and simple, and is a greater level of cuts than the one per cent real terms budget cut the Scottish Government itself has received. The price is being paid by people who will be hit by reductions in council services and vulnerable people who need quality social care. Every week I hear heart-rending stories from constituents worried about their ability to cope with the challenge of caring for elderly relatives and the lack of access to care professionals.

People with dementia are particularly hit by the lack of appropriate care services and their relatives are frustrated when they are stuck in hospital unable to be supported at home or be placed in nursing homes.

The SNP portray themselves as a party fighting for social justice. But their actions don’t match their words. They say they are in favour of social justice then impose swingeing cuts that will make it harder for councils to support the most vulnerable in our society.

There is nothing forcing the SNP to impose this austerity on Edinburgh City Council. They could make a different choice. They could support Scottish Labour’s radical proposal to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise income tax that would generate £500m a year, and which would be ploughed back into our councils allowing them to invest in our future by protecting our education and social care services. Our plan would provide for rebates for low-paid earners and pensioners so that it would be truly progressive.

Since our Leader Kezia Dugdale announced our plan, a series of experts have confirmed it represents a fair way to stop cuts to vital local services people rely on across Scotland.

The price of austerity is unacceptable. As Sandy Howatt SNP group leader in Edinburgh said in relation to the Scottish Government’s most recent local government settlement:

“A revenue cut of this scale would be very damaging for jobs and services within Scottish local government generally, and here in Edinburgh specifically – the harsh reality is that this will translate to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout our capital city. Everyone will be hurt by this.”

I couldn’t agree more.

• Sarah Boyack is a Labour MSP for the Lothians