THE SNP’s council tax freeze has come under attack again, as a trade union warned of service cuts and poor staff morale at local authorities.
The flagship policy has been in place since 2007, with the Scottish Government pledging to keep the charge at the same level until 2016.
Unison, which represents local government workers, said the freeze was no longer feasible.
Dougie Black from the union told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Local authorities clearly need to be able to raise more finance themselves in order to be a bit more innovative about how services can be provided.
“The council tax freeze has been going on for a number of years and the cost of this amounts to some £2.5 billion.
“When you look at the amount the council tax freeze has cost, this has prevented that money coming into local government and being able to provide for the services local government is there to provide.
“At the moment, we’re seeing local authorities concentrating on statutory services, and the non-statutory services are suffering.”
Mr Black said the union was seeing “a range of service cuts” in local authorities, from libraries to home care services, to environmental health officers.
“Staff morale is quite poor at the moment and it’s not surprising because the staff are under immense pressure. They’re being asked to do more work with diminishing resources,” he said.
“Strike action for trade unions is always an option, but it’s always a very last option, and at this moment in time we are working very hard to try to protect the services our members deliver and to keep these services in local authorities for the benefit of local communities. That’s the focus at the moment.”
Speaking on the same programme, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay insisted the Government had tried to protect local government from cuts.
He said: “The council tax (freeze) is fully funded by the Scottish Government to the tune of £70 million a year which is helping hard-pressed households, including people who work for the public sector, at this very difficult economic time, and difficult economic circumstances.
“I admit there are real-terms pressures on local services as a consequence of UK cuts, and the only way to stop that is to cut out the middle man of the UK, and by having independence and the full fiscal freedom that we would prefer.”