Inverclyde Council will agree a budget for the forthcoming year (2019/20) in March. Although a date for a full council meeting has yet to be agreed we believe it could be as late as the 21st March. The Scottish Government’s settlement was announced in December and was in UNISON’s view an extremely disappointing settlement for local government. Extra funding which the SG claimed would benefit local government is in fact earmarked or ring fenced for new areas of spending or areas of increased spending. This includes spending in areas such as sanitary products in public buildings, schools clothing grants, child burials and early years expansion as well as £1.8m of ring fenced HSCP funding. No decisions have been taken as to how the council will close this budget gap. UNISON and the other trade unions are in constant dialogue both with council officers and elected members. We want the council to agree a budget that minimises any impact on jobs and services. This was the focus of our campaign last year and this did prove to be successful broadly speaking. The TUs have stressed that we do not want to see any redundancies since these are jobs that will never be replaced. Redundancies (even those of a voluntary nature) adversely impact on the remaining workforce. Managing redundancies and the associated work of redundant posts and ensuring that staff who will continue to work in these areas are not unduly overworked has been a problem in the past and should be managed more effectively.
The Scottish Government will not finalise its budget for councils until later in January and possibly into early/mid-February after the budget is debated in the Scottish Parliament. An improved settlement may be agreed as happened last year. The council have said that they will not finalise decisions until there is clarity on the final settlement. As you are aware last year the council did not approve a number of cuts that formed part of the public consultation process. When agreeing their budget the council stated that they had listened to the arguments form the trade unions and were persuaded to keep job losses to an absolute minimum. Our expectation is, despite what the final budget gap will be, that the council will adopt a similar approach when they agree a budget for this year.
We will keep you updated with developments regarding the budget. This will include, as we have done in the past, meetings with members in areas potentially affected.