Letter to Fife Council

Our response to the Scottish Government budget announcement on local Government cuts on Wednesday.

To: David Ross
Fife Council

Dear David

COUNCIL BUDGET 2016/17 – SAY NO TO AUSTERITY CUTS

The People’s Assembly is a broad united national campaign against austerity, cuts and the privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services, based on general agreement with the signatories’ Founding Statement. We are not affiliated to any political party and are committed to open non-sectarian working and dedicated to supplementing, rather than supplanting, trade union, student, pensioner and community opposition to austerity measures.

The People’s Assembly views locally delivered, accountable and financed public services as the essential basis on which a fairer and better society can be built. We call on Councillors to stand up against austerity cuts originated by the Tories and compounded by the Council Tax Freeze. We appreciate these are tough times to be an elected member but it is more vital than ever that politicians take a stand on behalf of the many not the few. Councillors are there to provide political leadership not be administrators and managers.

To all Councillors and councils who promote an anti-austerity agenda we commit to building a grass roots movement to support those taking a stand. Fife People’s Assembly and Fife Trades Union Council are committed to supporting anyone or any councillor who is prepared to put their head above the parapet. We call on you and your colleagues to bring forth a budget that meets the needs of local people.

As was the case last year, Fife Council, along with all other councils in Scotland, are still faced with a black hole in their funding. In Fife we are still faced with a deficit of at least £77 million, possibly even more after yesterdays announcement. There is still the ongoing regressive council tax freeze, imposed by the Scottish Government. A tax policy that unfairly benefits those with higher incomes. Let’s not be under any illusion here, the cuts already implemented and the many cuts to come, are no more than the ideology that drives the Tory’s beliefs and motives. This austerity Ideology, along with the Trade Union Bill and TTiP/CETA are all designed to finally privatise the all of our public services.

The Councils budget consultation document last year was full of holes. There was no clear indication of the true nature of the proposed cuts. The public were being asked to agree with a set of unintelligible statements that had no real substance and did not give an indication of the expected outcome apart from a monetary value. What is the real outcome for the people involved, whether employed by the Council or the public and service users?

Fife council needs to produce a document that clearly states the total job losses. What services will be cut and what impact these will have on the public and its service users? It needs to detail the efficiency savings it is proposing, as proof to the public that it is using its budget in the most efficient manner. In reality it should be producing a needs based budget, a No Cuts Budget. A budget based on the full and true needs of the communities. Produce parallel budgets illustrating the real need for services and the associated costs combined with local economic impact statements on both budgets.

The People’s Assembly in Scotland is calling on all councils to introduce measures such as:

• Meaningful engagement and joint working with recognised trade unions, local Trade Union Councils and People’s Assemblies to campaign against austerity;
• No to externalisation and privatisation;
• Utilisation of reserves;
• No compulsory redundancy agreements;
• More coherent and joined up national campaigning against Westminster and Scottish Government austerity;
• Issuing of bonds to raise funds more cheaply;
• Refinancing PFI and other debts;
• Campaigning for a debt amnesty for historic debt;
• No more austerity denial – be up front about cuts and the damage they are doing – label cuts ‘This service withdrawn due to austerity’;
• Produce parallel budgets illustrating the real need for services and the associated costs combined with local economic impact statements on both budgets;
• Genuine community engagement and consultation, no more tokenistic budget public consultations, stand beside groups facing the impact of the cuts;
• Pursuing a Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions approach to Israel. No to Eden Springs Water, Hewlett Packard etc and pension scheme investments in Israel;
• Pass motions opposing the TU Bill, TTIP and CETA (outright opposition);
• Stop the language of customers, talk instead of citizens, residents, service users - the people;
• Promote working class and labour history and culture;

There is much talk from political parties and councils throughout Scotland of being anti-austerity. There much talk of progressive policies and a widespread condemnation of the Tory ideological driven cuts. The time for talk is over; the time for action is now. To say you are anti-austerity is easy. To blame others, easier still. Talk is cheap and we need more than words, we need action.

We need a concerted challenge to this austerity ideology. We need those, who we have elected whether in local or national Government, to actually do what they were elected for. They were all in the main elected on an anti-austerity ticket. Well it’s time to pay the piper; it is time to implement the policies you were all elected to provide. It is time to stand up and fight for the majority. It is time to prove that you are all indeed “Anti-Austerity”.

We are calling on Fife Council and the Scottish Government to remove the Council Tax freeze and implement a fairer and a truly “progressive” local tax, to properly fund all our local services.

There is a growing movement across Scotland and the UK, both within and outside local councils, who are opposed to the level cuts being inflicted on local Government. Once again a year later, we call on Fife Council to lead the resistance to these cuts and to remove the Council Tax freeze next year. To organise and work with other councils, trade unions, local and national campaigning groups, to create a coordinated resistance to this privatisation ideology. To call on the Scottish Government to remove the regressive Council Tax Freeze and introduce a fairer and progressive method for collecting local taxes and funding local Government.

To continue blindly accepting a reduction in all our public services is to admit defeat. It will not serve in the council’s aims of reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in our local communities. It will only serve to continue the downward spiral in the living and working standards of the majority of the population.

Please regard this as a submission to any formal budget consultation exercise the Council has underway. A delegation of People’s Assembly Supporters would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this further.

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