Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today challenged the SNP to reverse local government budget cuts.
Speaking at the city’s Anti-Cuts Conference, she questioned why Nicola Sturgeon has become an ‘administrator for austerity’, rather than the anti-austerity champion she promised to be.
Addressing campaigners alongside the Labour leader of Edinburgh City Council, Andrew Burns, she highlighted how the capital’s settlement from the Scottish Government for 2016/17 included a £22million cut.
Scotland’s block grant from the UK government has been cut by nearly 5 per cent by the Tories since 2010/11. But the SNP has cut local council funding by 11 per cent over the same time period.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Kez said:
“Between 2010 and 2015 the Tories cut Scotland’s block grant by almost 5 per cent. That's an economic policy that damages our public services and increases the inequality in our country. But the SNP has cut local council funding not by 5 per cent, but by 11 per cent.
Nicola Sturgeon has not just passed on Tory cuts – her government has more than doubled them.
The First Minister promised voters she would be an anti-austerity champion. Instead, she has become an administrator for austerity.
Scottish Labour will vote against any SNP budget that passes on austerity. The way to grow our economy and give all our young people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future is to invest, particularly in education. The Scottish Parliament should act as a block on Tory cuts, not a conveyor belt for them.
Our manifesto for May's election committed to a 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year so we can invest extra resources in schools and nurseries. We also pledged to set an income tax rate 1p higher than that set by the Tory UK Government so we can stop the cuts to the local services we all rely on, like education and social care. We will seek to amend the SNP's budget to deliver on these pledges.
I’m only asking Nicola Sturgeon to do what she’s said she wanted to do her entire political life: to make different choices to the Tories.
Nicola Sturgeon faces a choice – she can accept a Tory budget from Westminster, or they can work with Labour to stop the cuts.”
Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns said:
“Continuing reductions in revenue funding for councils, of the scale being discussed by the Scottish Government, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on a whole range of vital services that local government is responsible for delivering here in Edinburgh.
That includes the children in our care, the elderly struggling with dementia whom we look after, and vulnerable adults whom we assist daily. All these individuals rely on the support that only a council can provide.
The Scottish Government needs to use the powers it now has available, to avoid these potentially damaging consequences of simply passing on austerity to councils."