Joan McAlpine has criticised Labour councils including Dumfries and Galloway for threatening to turn away from £250 million funding to give care workers a living wage and she has challenged Labour on their decision to vote for a tax hike for 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers across Scotland – including almost half a million pensioners.
The SNP budget was debated by the Scottish Parliament this week and, in contrast to Labour plans, will deliver a pay rise for up to 51,400 low paid workers and no rise in Income Tax or Council Tax bills.
During the debate in parliament Ms McAlpine criticised the behaviour of Dumfries and Galloway Council and other Labour-led councils across Scotland who are threatening to turn away from £250 million funding, saying:
“Providing the living wage for care workers tackles delayed discharges, delivers improved quality of care, speeds up the delivery of care packages and increases the number of care packages. Of course, increasing wages to care workers improves job satisfaction rates, which reduces churn in the sector and ensures that there are fewer staff shortages. That leads to continuity in care packages, which is another issue that has been raised repeatedly in the chamber, as it is important that people who receive care packages in the community see the same people.
“That is all very good news, but it is being rejected by Labour councils, backed by their political allies in the Parliament. It is astounding that they would walk away from the budget, given the number of times that Labour has raised the issues of health and social care and of the living wage in that sector.”
Ms McAlpine slammed claims by Labour MSP Drew Smith that the budget would result in ‘tens of thousands of public sector workers who will be put out of a job,’ replying:
“When we look in detail at the budget, we can see that it is absolutely despicable that Labour councils around the country are threatening to sack workers. We are talking about a 12.5 per cent cut to this Government’s budget under the Tories. Councils here have been relatively protected, as Mr Swinney has said, compared with councils in England.
“The package represents a 1 per cent cut. If the Labour bosses of councils do not have the imagination and the ability to manage that in the same way as Mr Swinney has managed the budget of the country, they are doing a disservice to the workers they claim to represent.”
In her closing remarks Ms McAlpine said:
“It is the SNP Government that is protecting workers in the home care service and everywhere else. It is a shame that Labour has lost the tag of the workers’ party that it used to have.”
Following the heated debate Ms McAlpine added:
“I voted for an SNP budget that will help people on low incomes by rolling out the living wage across the social care sector, freezing the council tax and supporting low paid public sector workers – while Labour voted to increase how much tax they pay. Providing the living wage for social care workers is particularly important in Dumfries and Galloway which has the fastest aging population in Scotland. Our hard working carers deserve to be paid a living wage.
“Despite this Labour wants to shift the burden of Tory austerity onto working people across the country, effectively asking people to take a pay cut. I will continue to stand up for low paid workers in Dumfriesshire and fight the impact of Tory austerity – I will never ask ordinary workers to pay for Tory cuts.”