More cuts and more straightjackets for local government.

Today I was at a Scrutiny and Audit Committee meeting where it was clear that over £400,000 of this years budget cuts would not be achieved ... And because some of this was primary school closures with the saving in futures years being over £2 million next year and a further £1 million in subsequent years, the consequences for future years are significant. Apart from the lack of a robust educational case for the planned closures, the stopper was the Scottish Government deciding that no rural primaries would be allowed to close.

Now John Swinney is saying that councils will again not be allowed to raise council tax ...

With the Council Tax freeze, councillors were left to decide what to cut. When ministers decided that some areas for saving were off limits, they then directed the cuts to other areas. And now the cuts will continue deeper than ever.

When I first stood a friend said "remember, Debra, that councils really can only do what government tells them to do and then it is compulsory'. She was only a quarter joking - the freedom to do things for the benefit of the citizen has always been limited.

Now the room to manoeuvre is being limited for as much as the next 5 years.   It's not an attractive prospect for Councillors doing little more than decide where the axe shall fall.  Fred Macauley on Radio Scotland this morning joked that perhaps the current 32 councils should be merged into one.  If the Scottish Government does not increase the independence of councils both in terms of what they are allowed to do and how they raise the funds to do it, then maybe Fred is right.


  1. So does that mean you think council tax should be raised?

  2. Yes. Councils are cutting services that seriously affect the most vulnerable in society and taking road maintenance holidays that will cost us more in the long run. But it is also bad economics. If you take too much out of the economy, then people lose confidence to spend, demand drops and therefore investment drops ... Reducing demand further. See E.g The Guardian at And frankly in relatively wealthy Aberdeenshire, there is little excuse for the freeze.
    Now don't get me wrong, the council tax is the second most unfair tax of recent times. I want councils to raise their funds from a mix of a locally set income tax and a sensible property tax. But the compulsory freeze is bad for democracy and bad economics.


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