Councils 'stand on the brink of collapse', warns Scotland's most senior trade unionist

Roz Foyer also says the Scottish Government would not have introduced a new income tax band if it hadn’t been for the STUC

Scotland’s most senior trade unionist has warned councils “stand on the brink of collapse” if ministers continue to inflict cuts on public services.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), said the Scottish Government “must act” on local government funding as councils are “barely able to function”. She made the comments to the STUC annual conference in Dundee on Wednesday, where she said council workers cannot go through any more funding cuts.

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Ms Foyer said: “If we continue to see cuts to our public services, then our local authorities will stand on the brink of collapse. We are already seeing councils barely able to function, with cut after cut being inflicted upon them by central government.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, at the annual conference in Dundee. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, at the annual conference in Dundee. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.
Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, at the annual conference in Dundee. Image: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.

“There is another way – council workers can no longer bear the strain of government cuts, but it simply does not have to be this way. The Scottish Government must act.”

Her warning was issued after the SNP Government confirmed all 32 local authorities in Scotland were “effectively” implementing the council tax freeze. In her 2024/25 Budget in December, finance secretary Shona Robison allocated £147 million – the equivalent of a 5 per cent rise for each council – to cover costs.

A number of councils, including Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde, had threatened to rebel and Ms Robison was forced to free up an extra £62.7m in funding. Cosla, the umbrella body for Scotland’s councils, said £300m was needed for the freeze to be classed as fully-funded.

At the STUC conference, Ms Foyer warned the council tax freeze and “slashing” council budgets would have a direct impact on public services, such as creating a National Care Service (NCS) she said was not fit for purpose.

She said the Government’s NCS Bill was trying to “deliver care services on the cheap”, which she claimed would undervalue and exploit female care workers. One of the other big talking points from the Government’s 2024/25 Budget was the introduction of a new income tax band for those earning more than £75,000.

This was something the STUC had pressed the Government to do, and on Tuesday First Minister Humza Yousaf told the conference he was proud to implement this as a “direct ask of the STUC”.

Ms Foyer said the new income tax band would not have been introduced if it had not been for pressure from trade unionists.

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She said: “The STUC has unashamedly taken those arguments for redistribution into the political sphere. Be in no doubt, the Scottish Government would not have introduced a new tax rate for those earning over £75,000 had it not been for the STUC.

“But it’s not enough – we need politicians across all parties to commit to using the full powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver tax reforms, the majority of which focus on wealth and property, which could raise £3.7 billion extra each year.”

Ms Foyer also used her speech to send a message to UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, warning him not to water down his party’s new deal for working people.

Labour has promised its deal will end zero-hours contracts, as well as fire and rehire practices, introduce a real living wage, expand sick pay for the lowest workers and reform parental leave if it wins the general election.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on Monday told the STUC conference this new deal would lead to the “greatest transfer of wealth and power into the hands of working people” as he sought to secure trade unionist votes.

However, Ms Foyer said she was concerned the new deal for working people could be watered down. She said: “As well as progressive tax reform, with more than 100,000 workers in Scotland on zero-hour contracts, the need for improved workers’ rights has never been clearer.

“That’s why we welcome Labour’s new deal for working people, and the commitment made by Angela Rayner to our congress last year, repeated by Anas Sarwar this year, to implement this within the first 100 days of a UK Labour government.

“But as we knew would happen, the business lobby and other vested interests are on manoeuvres – they know the tide is turning, that a new UK government is coming, and they will do all they can to exert influence.

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“Good things don’t just happen for working people. We have to unite and we have to fight hard for them. So it’s up to us to ensure that we get an upcoming Labour government that fully understands the new deal for workers is not up for negotiation.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.



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