There needs to be a concerted and organised Scotland wide campaign between now and the next Scottish and Local Government budget setting. The past two years, campaigning has only really begun a couple of months prior to the budgets being implemented. This in reality means that the budgets and the inherent cuts therein, are already written in stone.
We should utilise the combined efforts of the STUC, all local Government Union branches, all Trades Councils, combined with all local and national campaigning groups, such as The People’s Assembly, Black Triangle etc.
In Fife, over and above what work the local Union branches were doing we:
- Carried out a press campaign in the lead up to the Budget.
- Produced flyers with a list of demands
- Held public meetings and invited the local Councillors to attend and listen
- Had meetings with the Council leader to put forward an anti-austerity case and to push for them to lobby COSLA to take action.
- Held a protest on the day of the budget, including blocking the main road into the council buildings.
- Had a delegation heard by the full Council
As stated above, this was all a bit like closing the door after the horse had bolted, as the budgets were in reality set. One success from our campaigning was that Fife Council were going to increase the Council Tax and COSLA were in a more defiant mood. This was of course, all scuppered by the Scottish Governments pronouncement of increased penalties against any Council that dared to break with their “progressive” rulings.
To have any real effect on any future budgets, the campaign needs to begin in earnest now. Not just in isolated individual areas, but a Scotland wide campaign.
We have seen the continuing privatisation of all our public services and industries. There is no more room for cuts; we have already cut services to the bone. Any further cuts will now have a major and detrimental impact on the public services that we all rely on.
With both SNP and Labour now agreeing that austerity is a political choice and not a requirement.
With both, now standing on a supposed anti-austerity platform. All over Scotland people will vote for them on that basis. Well it is time for them to put up, or shut up.
Another worrying trend that is emanating from some quarters within the Government, is the talk of reducing the number of council areas. With the Scottish Governments fixation on Central control over all areas and with the creation of centralised, Police, Further Education and the Fire Service, local Government is the next logical target for their “re-profiling”. This is the same warped Tory logic that is happening in England with the introduction of Mayors and the devolution of powers and spending to the larger Cities.
In Fife we fully expect this agenda to be pursued by the next Scottish Government, soon after the May elections. We need to ready for this or any other eventuality.