Budget 2018: Holyrood urged to use £950m fund to tackle Edinburgh care crisis

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond holds the budget box up to the media.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond holds the budget box up to the media. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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THE Scottish Government is being urged to use cash it will receive as a result of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget to help tackle Edinburgh’s care crisis.

The city’s Tory group leader Iain Whyte said the extra £650 million for social care in yesterday’s spending package would mean around £70m coming to Scotland - and he called on ministers here to pass the money on to councils, where it could ease pressures in the care system.

He said: “In previous years the Scottish Government has failed to pass on funding to councils, choosing other priorities. On social care it is definitely time for the Scottish Government to change and ensure Edinburgh gets the funds it needs.

“We have seen a growing crisis here in Edinburgh where costs of social care are higher than elsewhere in Scotland and where the council has failed to improve the management of the system.

“Far too many people are waiting for care and waiting for assessments. Funding alone won’t solve this But it can help deliver for those languishing in a hospital bed when they should be able to go home and for those at home who need care but the council can’t deliver it.”

And he said arguably Edinburgh should get more than its share of any Scottish allocation because the gap between care need and availability was higher here.

The Chancellor said the Budget - which he hailed as austerity coming to an end - would mean a total of £950m extra funding for Scotland.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell welcomed the money and urged the Scottish Government to follow Mr Hammond’s lead in allocating it to support the NHS, mend potholes and boost high streets.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said the Chancellor had sought to give smaller firms a shot in the arm and arrest the dramatic decline in small business confidence.

And it urged the Scottish Government to set up a new fund to support town centre diversification and development.

Senior FSB official Colin Borland said: “High streets are the beating hearts of our local communities. But changing shopping habits and divestment by large public and private bodies – like the banks and the police – have meant that independent firms can feel they’re sustaining our town centres on their own.

“The Scottish Government has already set ball rolling on this front – with their innovative Town Centre Regeneration Fund and their ground-breaking Small Business Bonus scheme. New monies as a consequence of the Budget should be used to expand and refresh these important initiatives.”

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to continue to freeze the duty on spirits as well as the tax on beer and cider.

Mr Hammond said he was responding to calls from Scottish Conservative MPs and said the measure would allow everyone to raise a dram for the arrival of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s baby.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “The continuation of the duty freeze is a very welcome show of support for the Scotch Whisky industry, which plays an important role in the UK and Scottish economies and which is one of the UK’s most successful exporters.”

Meanwhile, there were warnings that the £1 billion funding announced for Universal Credit fell short of what was needed to reverse the cuts made by the previous Chancellor George Osborne.

Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said Mr Hammond’s statement acknowledged there were major problems with the new benefit.

He said: “Any additional funding is of course welcome, but without more detail we are not convinced the amounts he has announced will be sufficient to mitigate the very real hardships people are experiencing. We continue to believe that the system needs fundamental reform.”

Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary Lesley Laird said the Budget did nothing to rebuild Britain. “Instead the Tories continue to divide our country between the richest few and the rest of us.

“The Treasury claim this budget will deliver £950 million more for Scotland over the next three years. That’s a drop in the ocean in the context of Holyrood’s £33 billion budget in the last year alone. Don’t believe Tory spin. Austerity is not over.

“The next Labour government will invest a transformational extra £70 billion in Scotland over a decade, and make our country work for the many, not the few.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay - who will present the Scottish Government Budget in December - said Mr Hammond’s package had failed to end austerity and claimed Scotland’s block grant from the UK was almost £2 billion lower in real terms in 2019/20, than it was in 2010/11.

He said: “This Budget falls a long way short of delivering for Scotland.

“There was little to boost our public services. The Scottish Government has already set out our plans to support the NHS in the years to come and the funding we have received as a result of health spending in England will go to our NHS in Scotland – but so far the UK Government has fallen at least £50m short of what was promised only four months ago.”

Mr Mackay said Brexit was a serious threat to the economy and to household incomes. “With the UK Government’s preferred approach to Brexit set to hit people’s incomes In Scotland by £1600 a head, the changes in this year’s Budget do nothing to alleviate the impact Brexit will have.”

And he said the changes announced to Universal Credit did not go far enough. “They are just a drop in the ocean compared to the impact the roll-out of Universal Credit will have. I continue to call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted – and halted straight away.”