BY No Author | February 4 2011 | comments icon 1 COMMENT     print icon print


Deep cuts may harm the weak

— Catholic groups in Scotland fear public sector and service cuts could affect the most vulnerable

Leading Catholic groups in Scotland fear looming cuts in public sector jobs and essential social services could disproportionately hit the weakest and most vulnerable in the community who can least afford to cope with the recession.

As the Scottish Parliament prepares this month to vote on £1.3 billion cuts in the budget bill, First Minister Alex Salmond has expressed a preference for councils to save jobs, admitting that ‘the 2.6 per cent decline in revenue funding for local government for next year is, of course, a very difficult settlement.’

Just how deeply council cuts are going to hit communities has yet to be fully finalised but details emerging this week on proposed changes to services for the elderly and in the voluntary sector have raised concern.

Catholic concern

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (Scotland), a parish-based society rooted in social justice and equitable treatment for all is well placed to anticipate what lies ahead.

The SSVP national council published a discussion document Finding the Forgotten in its Ozanam News publication last December in a bid to gauge the current and future social and economic circumstances in Scotland, focusing on the situation of the poor regardless of which government is in power.

Michael Balfour, SSVP Scotland national president, told the SCO: “In the current economic climate it is inevitable for central government cuts in expenditure to impinge on the operational capabilities of regional and local authorities. It is also inevitable that cuts in local social services will impact on those sectors of the community where people are already struggling to make ends meet.

“In recent years many of our society members have reported on less people making approaches for help. This has been attributed to the effectiveness of the local social services and this now seems set to change drastically.”

Lanarkshire man Jonjo McDonagh—Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columba, Britain’s leading order for Catholic men—has expressed his concern at the savage cuts that may lie ahead.

“The weak and vulnerable in our society, many of whom depend on the services provided by their local councils will be severely affected by the withdrawal of some services and the extra cost to them for those which continue,” he said. “National government and local councils should make strenuous efforts to ensure that the fallout from the recession does not disproportionately descend on those who are least able to withstand it. When these cuts are being considered surely Christian values should carry more weight than political ideology.”

Tim Duffy of Justice and Peace Scotland, a commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said that, while streamlining in the public sector appeared to be an inevitability, ‘human dignity needed to be protected’ and ‘the common good’ must be kept at the heart of the decision-making process on how savings will be made.

“Those on the frontline know most about what is going to be lost and are no less concerned about the people they work with than they are about their jobs,” Mr Duffy said. “Choices need to be made not just for this or next year’s budget, but on the long term needs of the people [our representatives] have been elected by and need to serve.”

Local authority plans

Meetings are being held throughout the country on proposed job, budget and service cuts. As the global recession hits regionally and locally, authorities across Scotland have begun to reveal the depth of the cuts being faced.

South Lanarkshire Council executive committee met late last month to find ways to cut £28 million from its budget and proposed a huge reduction in services. The council is considering cutting 340 jobs but the biggest savings come from service cuts.

The proposals include an increase in charges for meals on wheels and lunch clubs from £1.23 per meal to £3.10 per meal and for frozen meals to service-users from 91p to £2.47 per meal, bringing in £172,000; removing the subsidy for ‘self-funders’ in residential homes, bringing in £486,000, charging for adult day care and withdrawing transport from voluntary organisations.

Aberdeen City Council has said it is planning to make 900 job cuts after staff on more than £21,000 rejected a voluntary five per cent pay cut.

The council said there was ‘no alternative’ to the cuts as it had to make budget savings of £120m over the next five years. However Finance Secretary John Swinney disputed whether those steps were required.

Argyll and Bute Council Leader Dick Walsh has petitioned the Scottish Government to try and win the authority more cash after it was given the ‘worst funding cut in Scotland.’ The council faces a 4.94 per cent reduction (a budget cut of between £15million and £16million), almost double the average reduction across the rest of the country’s local authorities.

Glasgow councillors have already agreed a package of cuts of more than £50m for 2010/2011 but the council now faces making extra savings of around £7 million and almost 3000 employees have already agreed to voluntary redundancy.

North Ayrshire Council is seeking to shore up a gap of £7.5 million, with around 300 staff to be shed in the next financial year.

National services

The Finance Secretary has told the Scottish Parliament it is vital for all parties to work together to pass a budget ahead of the Scottish elections in May. However, on a national level there is widespread concern.

Chief police officers have warned that the Scottish Government’s draft budget has created a £40 million black hole that may only be filled by compulsory redundancies; lawyers have expressed concern over legal aid cuts and those in frontline services have said that schools, roads and other key public services are said to be facing ‘stark’ consequences as a result of ministerial plans to ring-fence health service funding.


Comments - One Response

  1. Politicians should never be trusted. Since devolution Salmond off the SNP and Cameron and Clegg, who have never known financial hardship, or grass roots poverty. they couldn’t give a [dash] about us . It’s all lies that’s what politicians do, break promises to get into power.There’s a Scotch, minority who phone radio stations, from scotland. There is a majority off English people, listening to backward scot’s, yes I’ve heard them myself on Radio Scotland and Talksport radio-radio Tay Dundee. [Rubbish] comes out off there mouth they say the first thing that comes into there mouth. Empty vessels make loudest noise and the Scot’s are no exception no wonder westminister has introduced the biggest finacial and Astronomical cut’s in British history thankyou Scotland.

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