Daniel Johnson: Derek Mackay must loosen the budget purse strings

Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern
Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern
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Back in 2017 Nicola Sturgeon said, “I take responsibility for the performance of our public services.”

I am sure that many of my constituents in south Edinburgh would have something to say to the First Minister of their experience of public services – continually missed bin collections, pot holes pockmarking our roads, pavements a patchwork of dodgy repair works, never mind the threats to library and school funding.

Is it right that a headteacher in one of my constituency’s primary schools ends up unblocking toilets because there isn’t enough money in the budget to have full-time janitorial cover? Is it right that a physics teacher has to buy stop-clocks for their lab so experiments and essential learning can take place?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. They’ve been raised with me in my constituency.

More than £400 million has been stripped from local services across the country since 2013. And at £1443 per person, Edinburgh is at the bottom of the pile in terms of funding from the Scottish Government.

Some people say to me that their council tax should ensure that public services are of a high standard, but that tax amounts to less than a fifth of the council’s budget. The grant from central government forms the vast majority of money available to be spent.

The apologists in the City Chambers, the SNP group, continue to package up these savage cuts as savings. The £150m worth of cuts being forced on the council by 2023 will only serve to make the current situation even more dire. Local residents will be left to deal with the fallout.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that public services have been under the cosh year after year, and it’s some of the most vulnerable in our society that suffer.

Which is why the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget, which is set to be revealed on December 12, is so important. The choices that Derek Mackay makes will either be an attempt to rectify the mistakes of the past or they will simply continue to make matters worse. My instinct tells me it will be the latter.

The outcome of further cuts will be severe here in Edinburgh.

Without proper investment public services will continue to crumble, despite the best efforts of council workers. The housing waiting list of over 20,000 will continue to leave desperate families in limbo. Permanently on the temporary accommodation merry-go-round.

We need the upcoming budget to work for local residents, not against them.

Derek Mackay needs to be honest about the effect of previous budgets, and for once actually support local services here in Edinburgh and across the country. If the First Minister truly took responsibility, then she would take appropriate action.

Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern