Council Budget update

Branch Secretary Robin Taggart gives an update for Council members.

“I am briefing all members on the council’s budget position for the period 2023/2025, and in so doing highlighting some of the significant challenges facing both the council and the trade unions. The estimated budget gap for 2023/25 is £15.2m before any council tax increases. However this excludes all health and social care partnership services as the integrated joint board which oversees the HSCP will be tasked with developing a budget strategy in this area. This means that any job losses, service cuts and increased charges (which we are advised will be unavoidable) will have to come from non-HSCP services. We haven’t been given specific information as to the projected budget gap within the HSCP, however we expect that the position will be far less precarious than the wider council position.

The policy & resources committee will be asked at their meeting on 9th August to agree a budget strategy for the next two years. This will include agreeing to a package of cuts totalling £4m before Christmas. £4m is essentially the level of reserves the council used last year to part balance the 2022/23 budget. Discussions with the trade unions on what service areas could be included will begin shortly. We will of course be seeking to ensure that this initial tranche of cuts has minimal impact on jobs. This would still leave a budget gap of £11.2m and we would encourage the council to consider proportionate increases to council tax and other charges as mitigation and to avoid unmanageable job losses. As trade unions we will be doing all we can, through lobbying and other measures, to get the Scottish Government to invest more in council services. We would expect councillors from all parties to do likewise. This won’t be straightforward. It is clear from the current pay negotiations as well as the national care service bill that this Scottish Government is not on the side of council workers.

Over the past few years the impact of budget cuts on UNISON members has been relatively manageable. A lot of effort has been expended through negotiations to reach a position whereby job losses have been kept to an absolute minimal. This has been the case over the past two years in particular, as a consequence of Covid and council elections.

Moving forward we will be restating the branch’s position against any form of compulsory redundancies. We will expect that the council should deliver a two year balanced budget without compulsory redundancies however difficult that might prove to be. Even if a ‘no compulsory redundancy’ budget can be achieved, we remain fully aware that some members on short term temporary contracts may still be at risk. Other members may be displaced. However the branch’s position remains committed to fighting for all UNISON members regardless of length of service or contract status. We are also seeking, as a matter of urgency, to review the terms and provisions of the council’s redeployment policy to ensure greater protection for members on temporary contracts with very little service.“


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