John Swinney in “denial” over scale of council cuts

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has come under fire after claiming £500 million of cuts to local authorities around Scotland will have a “minimal” impact on jobs and services.

Yesterday Angus Council axed 155 staff while local government body Cosla has warned 15,000 jobs will be lost across Scotland.

Labour and union chiefs claim Mr Swinney is in “denial” about the impact of the cuts.

Council leaders have been locked in a bitter dispute with the Scottish Government over the proposed budget for 2016-17, which proposes swingeing reductions in spending. Mr Swinney has also ruled out the prospect of any council tax increase and demanded teachers numbers be maintained.

But the Finance Secretary played down the likely effect of the reductions in a parliamentary response to Labour’s Jackie Baillie.

“I believe that such a reduction should have minimal impact on the jobs or services,” he said.

“Scotland’s councils should be able to address these challenges from a healthy base as local government funding has been rising in Scotland in recent years with core funding protected and new money ­provided for additional responsibilities.”

Scottish Labour has proposed a 1p rise in income tax under Holyrood’s new powers to mitigate the impact of the cuts and boost education, but this was rejected by MSPs earlier this month.

Labour has claimed the SNP is simply passing on Tory austerity measures.

Labour’s public services spokeswoman Ms Baillie said: “The SNP are in complete and utter denial about the damage their budget will do to Scotland.

“As councils up and down the country are forced to make swingeing cuts to jobs and services because of the SNP budget, for John Swinney to claim that any impact would be minimal is simply laughable.”

Unite regional officer Willie McGonigle said 40,000 local government jobs have gone since 2010, with a further15,000 likely to go as a result of the Scottish Government’s cuts.

He added: “To suggest the budget cuts will have ‘a minimal impact on jobs or services’ is frankly astounding. The impact on local services and livelihoods will be significant and there is no getting away from this, however much the Scottish Government may try to do so.”