SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has slammed the Labour administration’s budget cut plans saying that they need to get their ‘house in order’ before they cut local services.
She said: “Instead of asking members of the public what services the Council can stop providing, they should be getting their house in order and asking themselves the more important question of how to reduce waste and get on top of their budget.”
Over the past few years Dumfries and Galloway Council has been the subject of numerous spending controversies, including DG One, the roll-out of kerbside recycling and inordinate consultancy fees.
DG One cost £17 million to build and was awarded to Keir Construction on a ‘design and build’ contract – meaning the Council gave away the right to monitor the construction. The flagship centre closed two years ago with repairs not getting under way until August this year- the cost of these repairs will be anywhere between £6.5-£10m.
The estimated cost of replacing the failed Eco-Deco recycling plan is £4 million – with nearly £1m spent over the last three years to buy new lorries and store new recycling bins in a hangar as delays have pushed back the roll-out of the system.
And earlier this year the Labour administration was left red faced when a Policy and Resources Committee document uncovered £2.38m of Scottish Government grants the Council had left unspent.
Ms McAlpine said: “If the Council is so strapped for cash that it is having to cut jobs and services then this wastage really needs to be brought under control.”
“I know times are hard - Tory austerity has resulted in unprecedented cuts to the Scottish Government’s block grant from Westminster since 2010.
“In fact, a recent report by the Fraser of Allander Institute found that even before the uncertainty caused by Brexit, the Scottish government's budget was forecast to fall by just over 3% in real terms by 2020/21 as a result of the UK government's ill-advised austerity.
“But instead of putting their efforts into fighting these Tory cuts, or addressing their wastage issues, the Labour administration are just focussed on attacking the Scottish Government.”
The forecasters warned that another£1.6bn could be cut over the next four years. This represents more than the Scottish government's entire Finance and Economy; Fair Work, Skills and Training; Culture and External Affairs; and Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolios combined.
Despite ongoing cuts the Scottish Government has always treated local government fairly, with settlements maintained on a like for like basis over 2012-16. However it is investing more than inflation on the NHS, meaning other areas such as local government are affected by the Tory cuts.
The council launched a consultation on their proposed cuts with two “drop-in” events last week.
Ms McAlpine said: “As Unison have already pointed out, the council launched their ‘consultation’ with almost no notice or publicity.
“It seems to be like yet another “tick box” exercise so the council can later claim they have a mandate for more cuts.”