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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Scottish Spending Review

So after weeks of leaks and spin we finally got the Scottish Government's spending review today in Parliament. A one year budget to get them past the election next year, despite the UK CSR setting out spending plans for three years. £1.3m of spending cuts imposed by the UK Government next year growing to 3.3bn in real terms over the next three years.

The lowlights of the announcements today include:
  • So called efficiency savings increasing to 3%. This is just a weak mask for cuts across the board in every department.
  • A public sector pay freeze for those above £21k and £250 for those below. Even that concession is no where near inflation and constitutes a pay cut for the low paid.
  • A continuation of the Council Tax freeze. A tax cut for wealthy home owners at the expense of services, jobs and increased charges for those who can least afford to pay.
  • The reintroduction of PFI funded from revenue with all the associated costs. Years of cash wasted on the Scottish Futures Trust only to return to a failed policy.
  • The total abrogation of local democracy with a finance settlement and services directed by the Scottish Government. That is unless any council takes the so called choice of a double digit Council Tax rise.
  • One of those directed spending requirements is on police numbers. As a consequence we are likely to have even more police officers replacing civilian specialists instead of patrolling our streets.
A couple of partial highlights. A commitment to no compulsory redundancy in return for 'flexibilities', although it remains to be seen if the Scottish Government can deliver this across the public sector. Plus the introduction of the Living Wage in the public sector, but no mention of extending the benefit to the private sector through procurement.

When we do the detailed number crunching over the coming days I am sure we will find more smoke and mirrors as is normal in these spending reviews. The real villain here is of course the UK Con-Dem coalition and their ideological spending cuts. But the Scottish Government also had choices to make today. Sadly, they took some pretty bad ones.

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