Sunday, 13 June 2010

Local government funding

UNISON Conference 2010: We are talking about services here Conference. Services relied on by people. People who pay their general tax, their council tax and are now paying higher charges on top to buy the services they need.

Because that’s what happens when you freeze the Council Tax.

Flawed though it is, it is far fairer than forcing those in most need to pay the most in charges.

In Edinburgh, day care charges for 1500 pensioners almost doubled a few weeks ago.

And while this is going on, in Ann Street, Edinburgh’s most desirable address and home to several judges and QCs, residents will share more than £22,000 in public subsidy – an average of £445 per house from the freeze, paid for by national government.

While the cheapest Band A homes have saved only £147

All this while CIPFA says that about £210m has been used in Scotland to suppress council tax [in 2010-11] instead of supporting front-line delivery.

And this is paid for by all of us in general taxation. And the longer the freeze goes on, the more the tax will have to shoot up at the end – and that really will hit the low paid.

People paying three times over to fund the con about a council tax freeze.

A con that, as the year on year effect builds up, is leading to outsourcing and privatisation.

And as huge privatisation plans roll out, that same frozen council tax is being used to pay for profits rather than services.

A fifth of the workforce could be sold off in Edinburgh in an exercise that is grossly flawed and driven by some weird ideological partnership between the Lib Dems and the SNP backed enthusiastically by the Tories.

And the SNP coalition partners in Edinburgh are strangely silent about all this.

Maybe that silence is handed down from the Scottish Government.

Because when they said they’d freeze the council tax, I didn’t hear them saying they’d sell-off jobs and services to pay for it.

Or double charges for the elderly to pay for it.

Or starve the voluntary sector of funding.

Yes, the Council tax freeze is only part of the cuts story and far more vicious cuts are around the corner.

But it is part of the cuts story.

Getting rid of the council tax through a freeze that will see it account for less and less of council income, is not the answer.

Handing over even more power and more purse strings to national government as opposed to local government is not the answer because there will be no clawing back from that when its gets even more embedded.

We don’t need a back-door, uncontrollable solution. We need to reform local government finance in a way that brings responsive and accountable local services - without pretending that you don’t have to pay for them

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