The outcome of the Westminster Spending Review was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 November 2015. The Scottish Budget totals show a cash increase of £1 billion (3.3%) between 2015/16 and 2019/20, largely due to the Barnett consequentials of changes to other Whitehall departmental budgets. When adjusted for projected inflation, however, this represents a real terms reduction of 4.1%. For 2016/17, the year-on-year cash increase is £0.5 billion (1.7%), which represents a standstill budget in real terms.
I have submitted my proposals to improve the Dundee City Council Revenue Budget the SNP administration put forward. These are:
I welcome the change of heart by the SNP that will now see the Friendly Bus shopping service saved. My own alternative budget proposals would also have seen the service saved and it is good to see a bit of cross-party agreement for a change for the benefit of elderly people who rely on this vital bus service.
I would welcome the views of constituents – email@example.com.
Today the coalition government has announced a budget that will return the UK to sustainable and balanced economic growth and which puts helping Alarm Clock Britain at its heart.
We are increasing the income tax threshold by £630 to £8105; lifting hundreds of thousands of low income earners out of paying income tax and putting £126 back in the pockets of low and middle income earners. This is in addition to the last budget that took nearly a million of the lowest income earners out of tax and made millions of hard working individuals £200 better off. We are making a real difference in people’s lives – from the front page of our manifesto to people’s back pockets.
Alarm Clock Britain will be further helped by the measures we have taken to give motorists a fairer deal. We are shifting taxation away from the pumps and onto the broader shoulders of the oil companies instead – with fuel duty being cut and taxation on oil companies rising.
At the same time we are making the wealthy pay their fair share with increased measures to tackle tax avoidance, higher charges for non-doms and a special tax on private jets. This budget also places green growth front and centre – the Green Investment Bank will begin operation next year with £3bn of capitalisation, delivering an additional £18bn of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15.
We were left a toxic economic legacy by Labour with a record deficit and debt. Under Ed Balls Labour have no answers and solutions to the mess they left. The difficult decisions we have taken in government have rebuilt confidence in Britain’s ability to pay its way, kept interest rates lower than they would otherwise have been, and have provided the stability that business and individuals need to invest in the UK’s economy.
There are no easy decisions in this budget. But we are delivering a budget which will mean that that those who can pay more will; and those who are working hard to make ends meet will get a helping hand. This budget is progressive, green, liberal and what our country needs at this time.
Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister & Leader of the Liberal Democrats
At yesterday’s City Council Policy & Resources Committee at which the City Council’s budget was set, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I seconded a motion from Cllr George Regan on behalf of the Labour Group, that would have seen the SNP cuts-hit education budget increased by £376 000 over SNP proposals.
This proposal would have seen a funding increase in schools’ absence cover, SQA presentations funding, study support and continuing professional development for teaching staff compared to the SNP cuts agenda. I have real concerns about the “devolution” of absence cover budgets (cut by the SNP) – there is now no central budget to help a school pay for supply teachers if its devolved budget runs out through staff illness.
The proposal was unfortunately not supported by SNP councillors who appear, judging by their votes yesterday, more interested in sandwich lunches for councillors, alcohol purchases, councillors attending conferences and a civic car – as cutting these out would have helped pay for the additional education budget funding that the Labour Group proposed and the Liberal Democrats supported.
The SNP administration on Dundee City Council is out of touch with public opinion – whether it is their thoroughly inadequate response to public concerns over the biomass plant proposal or their wrong calls on the council budget.
I was on Wave 102 (click ‘play’ above to listen) and Radio Tay news today about the council budget, again making the point that there was merit in all-party discussions with our Head Teachers to reach the best possible solution for management arrangements in our schools.
Having discussed proposals from the Labour Group with Cllr Kevin Keenan, the Labour Group Leader, it is clear these have the potential to release up to £350 000 additional funding for education to help devolved school management – something my LibDem colleague Cllr Helen Dick and I will support.
As reported in tonight’s Evening Telegraph, I called this morning called for next Thursday’s City Council Policy & Resources Meeting at which the Council Tax is set to be postponed to allow proper and all-party discussions to take place over alternatives to SNP proposals to dramatically cut the number of Depute Head Teachers in Dundee schools.
Dundee Primary Head Teachers’ Association has put forward to the Director of Education a series of alternative proposals for consideration and I think these alternative proposals should be properly discussed in detail with the Head Teachers in an all-party setting to ensure we get the best possible outcome for our schools.
The Head Teachers’ proposals are contained in a paper dated 24th January and I have been making clear to the Director of Education that they should be shared with all 29 members of the City Council. I spoke with him again yesterday to be told these could not be shared as they were “the administration’s proposals”. I pointed out that these were actually proposals from the Council’s own staff and they must be shared with all elected members.
Belatedly, and I suspect reluctantly, they were finally given to all political groups just before 9am this morning. The deadline for putting in alternatives to the SNP’s cuts proposals was 5pm today and that leaves far too little time to reach a considered and proper outcome.
I would wish to see an outcome that preserves the staffing structure in our schools as far as possible without contraction of the school estate and it would be infinitely preferable to have all-party discussions with Head Teachers rather than the administration powering ahead with the SNP proposals to cut DHT posts.
I am very disappointed that it took until this morning to release these proposals to all elected members – this should have been done far earlier. It is therefore incumbent on the Chief Executive to allow further discussions to ensure the views of the staff side are properly listened to.
As reported in tonight’s Evening Telegraph, I have made clear that it is about time the City Council’s SNP administration took a report to committee outlining all the options it was considering to meet the Council’s budget shortfall – and to also indicate which were the options the administration proposed to take forward, and which it was rejecting. This follows on from a meeting of opposition group leaders at the City Council yesterday.
The so-called “Changing for the Future Board” is not an acceptable way forward as it is proposed it would meet in secret and would fail to include Trades Union representatives on it.
It is important that the SNP administration acts in a transparent way. The administration owes this to the council’s staff and the wider public. Thus far, the administration has talked much about secret Boards, but has not given any indication as to which cuts it is considering and what the options are.
The administration owes it to the council’s staff and the people of Dundee to remove uncertainty and to bring a report to the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee outlining all the options it is considering. This will allow both the administration and opposition members to scrutinise all the options and the administration can advise which proposals it intends to take forward.
Time is not on the council’s side if it is to make the savings for the next financial year – likely to be around £20 million for 2011/12 alone – in time. Much discussion and negotiation will be required and the sooner the uncertainty is removed and the SNP administration starts levelling with people, the better.
By bringing a report to the Policy & Resources Committee, the process can be seen to be open and transparent. It will also allow for representations to be made – for example, by the trades unions – by way of deputations. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that uncertainty and silence on the detail is promptly replaced by open and transparent discussion of the options facing the City Council.
You can hear my comments on Wave 102 news today by going to http://bit.ly/bTafaR.
At last Monday’s Policy & Resources Committee,the Labour Group Leader proposed and I seconded an amendment that would have made the Board open and transparent and would have also ensured the trades unions had representation on it. The SNP administration rejected this reasonable request in the usual “our way or no way” approach we all too regularly see from the SNP.
The events of the past week have done little to show that the SNP is in any mood for genuine co-operation with the others on the council and one can only conclude that the SNP administration simply views the Board as convenient camouflage for the cuts in services they intend to make.
I say “sneaked out” because the timing of the release to the media was done in such a way that no opposition councillor could have possibly had the opportunity to read it before the inevitable calls from the media asking for a response. If the SNP administration is serious about working in a cross-party and consensual manner, it was hardly a flying start.
Furthermore, SNP councillor Willie Sawers, in that press release, says, “The financial squeeze imposed on us by the Westminster Government is unprecedented and the overall financial picture has worsened as the implications of UK budget cuts have become clearer.”
And having had a swipe at the coalition government then goes on to say “In the best interest of the city, we would like to move forward from the old confrontational exchanges between parties.” Mmmm … perhaps not the best ever attempt at getting away from confrontational politics. Furthermore, someone should remind Cllr Sawers that the local government settlement is determined, not by the Westminster Government, but by his own SNP government in Edinburgh.
The lack of preparedness of the SNP government to properly manage a difficult financial situation is of concern.Today in the press, COSLA rightly hints that the SNP government’s less than even handed approach to cuts may make the local government position worse, and given the vital social care services provided to the elderly and vulnerable by local government, not subjecting NHS Boards to look at efficiency measures would be a big mistake.
Here’s a few potential NHS efficiencies for a start :
* Cut out the so-called “merit awards” paid to some of the highest paid NHS consultants on top of their large salaries. My LibDem colleague in Angus, Sanjay Samani,recently highlighted this issue with NHS Tayside.
* Cut down the NHS hospitality expenditure. Official figures obtained by the Labour Party earlier this month showed thatNHS hospitality costs in Scotland increased by almost 25% in the last three years, from £1 076 044 in 2007-08 to £1 332 501 in 2009-10. Almost £4m spent in the past three years and, as the Courier pointed out, a staggering £804 148 by NHS Tayside alone.
* Investigate fully and ensure no repetition of the scandal of NHS Education for Scotlandattending 21 conference in all parts of the world, including Durban, Instanbul and Sydney.
* Scrap the SNP policy offree prescriptions for rich people.
Of course, the NHS in Scotland, is not the only service where the SNP government has failed to properly control expenditure. In various newspapers today,including the Sunday Mail, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott MSP, highlights the disgrace of Scottish Enterprise’s ballooning spending on hospitality. Scottish Enterprise spent £499 078 on hospitality in 2009/10, up from £437 940 in 2008/09. Last month, they spent thousands on hospitality at the Open Golf Tournament at St Andrews.
As Tavish says, “SNP ministers need to get a grip of quango spending. Scottish Enterprise have their priorities badly wrong.”
Today, the City Council’s Chief Executive has confirmed to him that he is to bring a report about the 2011/12 council budget to the City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 23rd August.
I had asked Chief Executive David Dorward about the budget situation following this week’s publication of Scotland’s Independent Budget Review. He replied today :“The chief officers have been working quite extensively on preparing for the 2011/12 Revenue Budget and the implementation of the Corporate Improvement Plan that was approved at the Policy & Resources Committee on 26th April 2010.
I plan to bring a report to the Policy & Resources Committee on the 23rd August which will clarify the current financial projection for the City Council and how I believe the City Council should address the difficult financial future we face. I believe that this report will answer the questions you raise.”
I welcome the fact that the Chief Executive is bringing this finance report forward. Although the council’s final revenue grant for 2011/12 will not be known until later, it is important that the council is prepared in order to protect services and jobs.
It is a decisive budget that deals with the record deficit the Coalition Government inherited from Labour. It is tough but fair. Everyone will contribute, but the Coalition Government’s plans will ensure that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the heaviest burden.
Thanks to Labour, we have one of the largest budget deficits in Europe. Thanks to their incompetence, we are now are borrowing one pound for every four we spend. There is nothing progressive about a party that chose to saddle our children with their debts. Every time a Labour politician complains about budget cuts, he or she should be reminded that it was the former Labour Government that presided over the shambles that got our economy into this perilous state.
We only have to look at Greece to see what happens to countries that don’t live within their means, and where the government failed to take decisive action – more businesses going bust, higher unemployment, and rising interest rates.
If we fail to deal with the deficit it will be the poorest who suffer the most.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have come together to tackle the debt crisis facing our country, acting quickly and taking the tough decisions that the Governor of the Bank of England and the G20 support, and that Labour ducked.
However the Budget doesn’t just pay the bills of the past, it also starts planning for the future. The Budget is written with responsibility, fairness and enterprise at its heart.Helping low and middle income earners
As we promised in our manifesto and our coalition agreement we are raising the income tax threshold. The first step to lifting it to £10,000 a year has been taken by increasing the threshold by £1,000 to £7,475 a year, which will give 23 million low and middle income earners up to £190 back in their pocket to spend. This measure will take 880,000 people out of income tax altogether.
Those with the broadest shoulders bear the heaviest burden
As we promised in both our manifesto and our coalition agreement we are ensuring that the wealthier pay their fair share. We are increasing the rate of Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers while keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers. In line with the Coalition Agreement we are also increasing Entrepreneurs Relief from £2m to £5m. There will be no indexation and no taper relief- these only complicate the tax system. This will raise an extra £1bn and end the disgraceful situation of bankers paying a lower rate of tax than their cleaners.
Securing a fair deal for Pensioners
As we promised in our manifesto we are introducing a ‘triple lock’ to protect pensioners. In future pensions will rise with the higher of earnings, 2.5% or inflation. This year because RPI will be higher than CPI it will rise with RPI, in future the inflation measure will be CPI. The standard minimum income guarantee in Pension Credit will be increased in line with RPI this year so that the poorest pensioners receive the full benefit of the rise in the Basic State Pension. We believe that it is only fair that pensioners are guaranteed a decent pension from the state on which to live.
Tackling Child Poverty
We believe that every child deserves a fair star in life. And this budget keeps a commitment to tackling child poverty in meaningful way. Despite this Budget representing an unprecedented fiscal consolidation the Coalition Government has taken action to ensure that there is no measurable impact on child poverty. This has been achieved by committing a further £2bn in to the Child Element of tax credits. The coalition also remains committed to introducing the Pupil Premium – which will give more money to the pupils and schools that need it the most.
We believe that climate change is one of the most serious threats that the world faces and the Coalition Government has pledged to make this the greenest government ever. The Coalition Government is committed to:
* providing the right incentives for low carbon investment. The Government will publish proposals in the autumn to reform the climate change levy in order to provide more certainty and support to the carbon price;
* creating a Green Investment Bank. Detailed proposals of which will be provided after the Spending Review; and
* establishing the Green Deal for households, to help individuals invest in home energy efficiency improvements that can pay for themselves from the savings in energy bills.
Rebalancing the economy
The Coalition Budget introduces a bank levy (based on balance sheet size), which will raise £2.5bn a year. It is only fair that that the banks pay their fair share back to the taxpayers who helped bail them out. This will contribute to tax cuts for all other types of business. Corporation tax will be cut from 28% to 24%, over 4 years, with 1% cut each year. The small companies’ rate will not rise to 22% as proposed by Labour; instead it will be cut to 20%.
Responding to Alistair Darling’s Budget, Nick Clegg said:
“This Budget was a political dodge not an economic plan.
“Britain needed a Budget that gave us honesty in spending and fairness in tax, we have got neither.
“Labour is in denial, while the Conservatives are talking tough to cover up that they only offer more of the same.
“The Chancellor is incapable of coming clean about where spending cuts will have to fall.
“Rather than being honest with people about what the Government can and cannot afford, the Chancellor would rather let others indiscriminately shave departmental budgets.
“By confirming the freeze in personal allowances the Government has ensured everyone will see a real increase in their income tax bill – when what people on low and middle incomes desperately need is an income tax cut.
“Rather than forcing the nationalised banks to lend to good British businesses they have chosen to create a feeble quango to arbitrate between bullying banks and their small business clients.
“It says something when the most substantive announcement the Government can come up with is a tax agreement with Belize, however welcome that may be.”
Vince Cable responded to the budget below:
This afternoon’s City Council budget meeting was nothing short of dreadful – the SNP administration misused Council Standing Orders to rule an opposition motion (that was to be moved by Labour and seconded by me) that would have ensured the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project does not lose its funding, was “incompetent” – although it had already been ruled competent by council legal officers. I have no doubt where the real incompetence lies.
I spoke with Radio Tay tonight about this disgraceful situation and here’s my news release :‘Councillor brands City Budget Meeting as disgraceful
Dundee City Council’s Liberal Democrat Group Leader tonight branded the council budget meeting as “nothing short of disgraceful” and that the SNP administration should be ashamed of the way they handled the meeting.
Cllr Fraser Macpherson said, “The Depute Convener of Policy & Resources ruled a motion by the opposition out of order despite it having already been approved by the council’s top legal officer as competent. Councillor Sawers was unable and unwilling to give any satisfactory explanation for this disgraceful gagging of debate.
“The SNP administration simply wanted to avoid a debate which would have exposed their dreadful handling of the Fairer Scotland Funding issue and their treatment of the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project. They have misused council standing orders to gag any opposition. It is nothing short of disgraceful and I feel for the staff at DEAP – all the opposition was seeking to do was to protect DEAP’s funding and people’s jobs.”
Cllr Macpherson indicated that an cross-party group of opposition councillor are seeking an urgent meeting with the Council Chief Executive and the Depute Chief Executive in her capacity as the council top legal officer.
Cllr Macpherson said, “I am simply appauled at how the SNP acted today. A council cannot be allowed to operate in this manner. The SNP seem determined to gag any views they don’t like. It is a bad day for democracy and for the reputation of the City Council.”‘
* The first ever Board meeting for the West End Primary/Nursery Schools project – St Joseph’s Primary, Park Place Primary and Park Place Nursery Schools – took place. It is envisaged that a pre-planning application process, including an exhibition for parents, carers and the local community generally, will take place between February and April. The exhibition will be on 1st and 3rd April, and there was some discussion about the location of this – the consensus view I support is to hold it at Blackness Library.
* I had a useful meeting with a member of the WestFest committee about progress with this excellent initiative – seehttp://www.dundeewestfest.com/.
* Tonight’s “Evening Telegraph” covered my concerns about the huge cuts in Fairer Scotland funded (FSF) projects across Dundee that have been supported by the SNP council administration. I have been inundated with messages of support over this issue – people right across Dundee are shocked at the extent of cuts to excellent projects that are aimed at helping the least affulent and most vulnerable citizens in our city.
As I indicated to the Courier thereafter, I felt the meeting was constructive, although I have sought clarification of a number of savings that are being proposed.
My greatest area of concern about the 2010/11 budget is the reduction in Fairer Scotland Fund budgets, resulting in the removal of funding from a number of excellent projects in the city. I was very concerned to learn today that one project whose funding has been removed (Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project) has been refused permission to put its case to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee next Monday. I have written to the City Council’s Chief Executive making clear my disquiet at this decision and calling for a rethink. If DEAP is not given leave to speak to councillors at committee next Monday, I intend to move suspension of council Standing Orders to allow DEAP to speak.
On another matter, I had a positive meeting this morning with senior Waste Management officers and the SNP Convener of Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environmental Services about bulky uplifts policy and charging. It is around 10 years since the council’s bulky uplifts working group reported, and I had suggested that a review of policy should now be undertaken. We met today to discuss this and had a useful exchange of views about the issues, including looking at other authorities’ good practice through benchmarking (for example, some councils have concessionary pricing or free uplifts for some residents, such as those on low incomes, the elderly, etc) and improving the recycling effort.
I indicated that “as a City Council, facing a significant financial challenge and I think it is in the interests of the city that we all work together irrespective of politics in a productive way to minimise any negative impact on service provision.”
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are planning swingeing cuts at the very time that the country is expected to be gradually starting to recover.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament has finally agreed its Budget – partly, of course, because it lifts the uncertainty that was hanging over the ability of our local authority (and the 31 others across Scotland) in being able to set its own budget a week tomorrow.
The degree of willingness to find consensus across the parties in the parliament was positive; as a result we now have a Scottish Budget that is better forScotland than the original SNP proposals.
Tavish Scott has rightly said that politicians need to think beyond tomorrow’s headlines – it is important for people to work hard for long term economic benefits for Scotland, particularly given the challenging economic situation facing the country.
For local public services, the news from the new Budget on school building is positive. The SNP has changed their position on the Scottish Futures Trust. Following pressure from the Liberal Democrats, the government has now agreed to provide a new funding stream to restart school building in Scotland to supplement the limited building possible through conventional prudential borrowing.
Local authorities and the construction industry have heavily criticised the government for paralysing investment and planning for new schools, so moves towards a proper programme of support for school building is to be welcomed.
The SNP has also changed their position and will now engage with the Calman Commission on devolution. This is the best way to get additional fiscal powers for the Scottish Parliament, which if delivered could allow for major capital projects such as the planned additional Forth Bridge crossing to be paid for without jeopardising every other transport project in Scotland.
Professor John Curtice told the BBC on Sunday that this concession could be the “most interesting long-term consequence of all of this.”
The consensus in Edinburgh will hopefully be mirrored on Dundee City Council where it looks increasingly likely that agreement will be possible on the City Council’s Revenue and Capital Budget proposals between the political groups on the Council, making the possibility of freezing the Council Tax in Dundee for a third year in a row becoming deliverable.
There will be a further meeting of political group leaders tomorrow but it is looking very promising that the necessary savings to reach a council tax freeze position may be agreed between the parties, which I think is good news for Dundee Council Taxpayers.
It has undoubtedly been a challenge to ensure that savings are found that achieve such a position, particularly as I think all councillors want to minimise any effect on the quality of the Council’s services, but it is good that agreement now seems likely.
With the passing of the Scottish Budget today, the potential problem of it not being agreed affecting the date when councils set their Council Tax levels has been removed and it is now certain that the Council Tax will be fixed for Dundee on 12th February.