The news that two thousand jobs are under threat in Edinburgh City Council is devastating. Not just for those whose livelihoods are under threat, but also those who rely on the public services they provide.
As ever, it’s the vulnerable, including children, elderly and disabled people, who will be the worst affected.
And it is not just Edinburgh. It’s happening across Scotland. North Lanarkshire Council, for example, announced a few days ago that it will cut ten per cent of its workforce. This will cause chaos in vital public services and see £26 million cut from the Lanarkshire economy.
It’s a difficult time for Scottish councils who are hit by the double whammy of UK government austerity and the Scottish Government’s council tax freeze. Both are ideological decisions responsible for the destruction of local government in Scotland.
More than 50,000 public service jobs have already been axed across Scotland since 2009, most in local government, and it is truly frightening to think of the impact a further £2 billion of cuts to public services.
That could mean another 30,000 jobs will be lost across Scotland and misery for those directly affected across Scotland
Unison, Scotland’s public services union and the biggest union in Scotland, is calling on both Scottish councils and the Scottish Government to do more to fight these cuts.
First they can join Unison and others in campaigning against austerity. But more than this, they can do more to mitigate the impact of these cuts – borrow at record low interest rates, refinance, use reserves, unfreeze council tax, reform local taxation, and make better use of pension funds. Unison recently set out a range of proposals in our report Combating Austerity.
We call for an economic and industrial policy aimed at creating full employment, with investment in housing, infrastructure and energy, fair taxation and a crackdown on tax avoidance. The Scottish Government should at least consider our proposals with a task force similar to that suggested for Scottish steel. What have we got to lose?
The alternative is this mass, crass, ideological attack on our public services. Police officers (although not police staff), teachers (although not education budgets) and the NHS are protected. This means billions of pounds worth of cuts are falling on local government, their staff and the those who rely on their services.
Join us to campaign to end austerity, increase funding from the Scottish Government and mitigate the impact of cuts.
Danny Phillips is communications officer for Unison Scotland