Unite pleads to Scottish Government to drop Edinburgh's debt

MEMBERS of Unite in Edinburgh are taking part in a national day of action calling on the Scottish Government in a bid to drop the debt and protect valuable local services.

Wednesday, 23rd November 2016, 3:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:25 am
Unite are calling for Edinburgh's debt to be dropped. Picture: TSPL

Research carried out by Scotland’s biggest union as part of its Drop the Debt campaign shows that the equivalent of 50p of every pound in council tax paid in Edinburgh is spent on paying interest on historic debt. The figure across Scotland is around 44p in the £1.

Now the union is calling on the Scottish Government to support an amnesty on loans that Edinburgh City Council took out with the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) before devolution. That could save the council some £47.6 million a year.

Unite members in local authorities across Scotland are today holding stalls, rallies and collecting signatures to lobby Scottish Ministers.

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Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Our public services are being shredded because of an economic crisis caused by casino bankers. It’s an attack on all of us – from children in nurseries to elderly people needing care.

“We believe a debt amnesty will help. There is already a precedent for it – for example, the UK Government wrote off Glasgow City Council’s historic housing debt when its homes were transferred to a new housing association.

“Eventually, we need the UK Treasury to act. But if there is going to be any chance of that happening we need the Scottish Government to get on board first. We need our government to do everything it can to protect the local services we all rely on from Tory austerity.

“The cuts are taking a massive toll on our members. They are having to work harder and harder, with fewer and fewer resources, just to provide basic services to local people.

“We can’t go on like this. It’s time to drop the debt.”

Unite estimates that the annual cost of servicing Edinburgh City Council’s debt is around £119 million – that does not include debts run up under the controversial Private Finance Initiative.

In the 17 years since devolution, Unite estimates that Scotland’s councils have sent back a minimum of £3.3 billion to HM Treasury in interest-only payments, just to cover historic debt to the PWLB.

Nationally, the Scottish Labour Party made the demand part of their manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election, and earlier this month the Scottish Green Party added their support.