Council leader's redundancy figures 'don't add up'

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Ronnie Nicholson disputes the figures I obtained on redundancies in Dumfries and Galloway Council, "Council leader hits back over 'embarrassing' claim" (E&L Advertiser, January 25).

But these are his own council’s figures, obtained by myself through Freedom of Information laws.

Last year Mr Nicholson got headlines by claiming the council he runs faced 400 job losses and he blamed the SNP. In fact, the council's official figures stated clearly that 189 workers had taken voluntary redundancy. There were no compulsory redundancies. I maintain that 189 is a lower figure than 400.

The same council officials also revealed there were 661 "posts recruited to", which Mr Nicholson seized upon by claiming some of these were internal without giving any factual breakdown to back up his case. That merely clouds the issue. The fact is he tried to score political points by implying 400 people were about to lose their jobs.

All job losses are regrettable. But people should not be put in fear of their future in order for Labour to make political gain.

There is no doubt public services face a difficult time because of cuts by the Conservatives at Westminster. The independent economists at The Fraser of Allander Institute say the Scottish budget from Westminster has faced "unprecedented cuts since 2010, with the resource budget for this year five per cent lower in real terms than 2010/11”.

Despite this, the SNP has given the NHS above inflation rises. Labour claims councils face cuts in this year’s budget but if you include health and social care spending through integrated joint boards, plus the £120m the SNP is giving directly to schools, services are getting a modest rise. In Dumfries and Galloway there is £7m more for services than last year.

We are protecting household incomes of working people through free prescriptions and school meals. For the poorest, there is no bedroom tax, unlike in England. Students get free tuition in Scotland and 100,000 small businesses pay no rates as a result of the SNP’s small business bonus.

When Mr Nicholson and Labour talk about “using the powers of the parliament” to address cuts, he means taxing everyone earning above £11,000 a year. That is unacceptable when people are struggling. Meanwhile, the Tories call for tax cuts for the richest, while calling for more money to be spent locally – sums which don’t add up.

Joan McAlpine

South of Scotland MSP

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 10:48AM
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