Inverclyde Council Budget Update

Robin Taggart, Branch Secretary, provides an update on the next budget round.

“It doesn’t seem that long since the council agreed their budget for 2019/20 at a meeting of the full
council on the 21st March. Yet here we are, in early June, discussing the budget for next year and
beyond. The budget process is now cyclical to the point of being perpetual and unremitting.

So where to start? As things stand the Council’s projected budget deficit for the three year period
2020/2023 is £19.1m. Even taking account of a range of factors – this is before council tax is
increased, normal accountancy adjustments have still to be made, increases in charges and the
possibility of additional last minute funding from the Scottish Government – this is still a serious
position the council face. It is now a matter of routine that the Scottish Government is de-
prioritising Local Government, regardless of their claims to the contrary.

The Scottish Government intend issuing a three year budget in December. So moving forward the
council’s approach to closing the budget gap will be similar to what they have done previously. Each
of the three council directorates will establish a long list each of potential cuts – £6m per
directorate. Not everything on these lists will be new. There is currently £6.725m worth of cuts that
weren’t taken last year (Education – £3.192m, Environmental – £2.847m and HSCP £686,000). This is
going to be particularly challenging for the HSCP who will be looking to identify just under £5.5m
worth of new cuts. The HSCP budget is less straightforward than that of the other two directorates.
Apart from the fact that most services are jointly funded with GG&C NHS, around £36m of their
budget (which accounts for approximately 55% of the total HSCP budget) is used for commissioning.
It is likely that commissioned services as well as services directly provided will be impacted upon.

To put £19.1m of cuts into context, this could mean the loss of between 400 and 500 jobs – around
10% of the overall workforce. However it is worse than that. Certain large occupational groups can
be removed from the equation. Teacher numbers (other than those posts not affecting class sizes),
Home care and early years (which is expanding) are obvious examples. This makes the percentage of
the workforce whose jobs are cut-able is much higher.

Important as is to present the current position as accurately and honestly as possible, it is also
important to provide some context. Firstly, UNISON and the other trade unions have already begun
engaging with the corporate management team through the joint budget group. This time last year
the projected number of job losses for the 2019/20 budget was over 300. By the time the council set
their budget in March this had been reduced to just under 40. This doesn’t mean that those 40 job
losses were in any was acceptable to us. Far from it. What it does do is show the importance of
having a strong trade union. As we always say being experienced negotiators obviously helps.
However it is what sits behind the discussions and negotiations – a strong and effective UNISON
branch – is what is ultimately what counts. On that point we should not be reluctant to remind non-
members that we are fighting to protect their jobs as well.

We will, as we have done in the past, do all we can to reduce the impact of cuts on jobs and services.
This however is becoming increasingly more difficult given the scale of the projected shortfalls over
the next three years. However we remain resolute and determined as ever.”