MSP's jobs claims don't add up

SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

IN A letter last week "Council leader's redundancy figures 'don't add up'" (E&L Advertiser, February 1) Joan McAlpine (South of Scotland MSP) falsely accused me of disputing the figures she had obtained under Freedom of Information.

I did not. I pointed out that she misled your readers in the cack-handed way she distorted.

Let’s be clear what Joan McAlpine’s false claims are and what the facts are, according to her own government. Last year I expressed my concerns that the £20m of Scottish government cuts to the council put 400 jobs at risk. I pledged that I would work to minimise the job losses when agreeing the budget.

A few weeks ago Joan McAlpine issued a press statement claiming my fears over job losses were a ‘gross exaggeration’ and she made the quite extraordinary claim that “the council actually increased its staff by 426”.

In making her false claims, she cites two selective figures. The recruitment figure of 661 and the number of voluntary redundancies of 189 and naively deducts one from another to justify her false claims.

The figures are correct. It’s Ms McAlpine’s misinterpretation, deliberate or otherwise, which is false. Firstly, the recruitment figures include existing members of staff who were matched into new job descriptions after the recent reorganisation (so not actually extra members of staff) and seasonal workers who obviously leave at the end of the season.

The voluntary redundancy figure she uses is only a fraction of the people who leave the council’s employment. It excludes seasonal workers who leave because their contract is up and, astonishingly, she just conveniently forgot to mention the many hundreds of people every year who retire or go to a new job outwith the council.

So, what is the true position? Each month Ms McAlpine’s own government publishes the public sector employment figures in Scotland. It gives me no pleasure to point out that, according to the SNP government’s own figures, in December last year the workforce in the council had fallen by 324 in the past 12 months and by 1,100 since Joan McAlpine became an MSP.

People make mistakes, even our MSPs. But the real measure of honesty is whether you admit to those mistakes or, in the case of Ms McAlpine , you write to a newspaper and repeat those false claims.

This month the council has to deliver another budget. Just over £9m of cuts have been identified but are still to be fully agreed. The government has increased council tax in the region by £2.4m and councillors will, if they choose, be able to increase it by a further three per cent, raising another £1.9m.

This leaves more than £2.7m to be identified to reach the £16m of cuts imposed by the government. This is on top of the £70m of savings over the past three years.

I know councillors of all political parties are working hard to identify those savings. But I don’t know a single one who will insult the intelligence of your readers or their constituents by claiming the decisions they make will not have an impact on services or reduce the number of jobs further next year.

Councillor Ronnie Nicholson

Dumfries and Galloway Council leader

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 10:37AM
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