As expected, the Scottish Greens concluded a deal with the SNP to ensure the Scottish Government’s first budget of the new Parliament will pass. As expected, politicians from both parties have been lauding the outcome of this deal. As expected, the contents of their proclamations enjoy a tenuous relationship with reality.
Extra money for councils, £160m of it, must be good, right? Those parties complaining about local government cuts look like fools now. Glory be to the great Scottish Government… not quite.
An “extra £160m” does not cancel £360m of previously announced cuts.
So whilst Ms Sturgeon, Mr Harvie and their colleagues are busy patting themselves on the back for implementing those terrific, progressive cuts it will be your council and your services which suffer.
To understand the impact of the changes, I’ve taken the Scottish Parliamentary Information Centre report to the Local Government Committee [LINK] and added the new funds which were announced today [LINK]. The results are below¹.
Every council is facing cuts. The average cut across Scotland to deliver like-for-like services compared to 2016/17 is 2.6%.
And before the inevitable objections, no this is not in the face of Westminster cuts to Scotland’s block grant. Even looking at just Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL) available to the Scottish Government, the SNP’s budget has increased this year – by 1.5% in real terms².
The Scottish Government, as is their right, have simply decided that they would rather spend the increased funding elsewhere. They have, it seems, other priorities. But whilst doing so, the First Minister has said she is “delighted” to force a 2.1% real terms cut on her constituents’ council; “delighted” to force cuts on local services upon which her constituents rely; “delighted” that such cuts might result in job losses for her constituents.
¹ Data is taken from the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee Agenda and meeting papers for 21st December 2016 [LINK]; and the Scottish Government’s news page ‘Budget boost for economy and public services’ [LINK]. I have used the same deflator as the committee paper to transfer the cash figures into real terms.
Full workings shown below.
Note these are *resource budgets* only. I had previously, in error, compared the resource budgets from 2016/17 to the combined resource and capital from 2017/18 which under-estimated the cuts. I will add some more detail to estimate capital contribution at a future date.
² See the Scottish Parliament Information Centre report on the initial draft budget [LINK] or the draft budget itself (if you can work round the spin) [LINK]. For help seeing the actual data without spin, see these from the always excellent chokkablog [LINK 1] [LINK 2] [LINK 3]
³ As an aside, the “new funding” announced for Police Scotland will go into the Reform Budget. This is ring-fenced funding which pays for the VAT cost incurred by virtue of the SNP’s centralisation programme sacrificing the previous rebate and any costs faced in re-structuring. So this money will not fund additional police personnel or frontline services but rather organisational change.