Cuts to councils more than reversed as Green MSPs prepare to pass the Budget Bill

A raft of proposed cuts to councils in Scotland, totalling £157m, will be “more than reversed” today (21 Feb) says Patrick Harvie, as Green MSPs prepare to vote to pass the Budget Bill.

The Stage 3 debate at Holyrood will see parliament approve the Greens’ deal for an extra £170m for council services and for a fairer system of Income Tax.

However, Harvie, a Glasgow MSP, is also warning that the government must now go on to reform local taxation, in part, to avoid the Scottish Budget process remaining an “annual rear-guard action against local cuts”.

Prior to the vote, Green MSPs will highlight many of the other concessions that were successfully negotiated with the finance secretary, including:

* 73,000 more public sector workers will get a pay rise.

* A new community rail fund to help campaign groups get stations reopened and new lines into construction.

* An extra £2million for insulating homes, fixing leaky windows and tackling fuel poverty.

* A reduction to the proportion of high-carbon capital projects such as new trunk roads and increase the proportion of low-carbon capital projects such as rail, buses and warm homes – a commitment which is to be extended each year for the rest of the parliament.

* Protection for whales, dolphins and other marine life with funding for four marine conservation areas.

Patrick Harvie MSP, the Scottish Greens’ finance spokesperson, said:

“Communities throughout Scotland will, as a result of this deal, receive an additional £170m for local council services, an agreement that more than reverses the £157m of local government cuts proposed by the SNP. What’s more, we’ve made this year’s budget fairer by ensuring 73,000 more public sector workers, such as nurses and teachers, get an inflation-based pay rise and that 56% of people in Scotland will pay less tax in the coming year, while high earners contribute more.

“Yesterday in parliament, we saw Green MSPs support the Income Tax Rate Resolution. Again today, we’ll show that the Green approach to politics - constructive and challenging - gets results. As a result of our work Scotland is going beyond just tweaking the existing system and is instead setting rates and bands that are more proportional to people's incomes.

“However, we now need to follow through on this progress we’ve made on income tax, and advance the case for local tax reform. The SNP used to be among the loudest voices calling for an end to the unfair Council Tax and before the last election they invited all opposition parties to take part in the Commission on Local Tax Reform. The result was a clear set of recommendations which must not be allowed to sit gathering dust on the shelf.

“The SNP has stalled on local tax reform since last year, but that cannot last. We have made it clear that the national budget process much not become an annual rear-guard action against local cuts and local tax reform is therefore an issue which should wait no longer."