Local Labour campaigners joined a national lobby of the Scottish Parliament yesterday to highlight the £10 million shortfall in East Lothian Council’s funding proposed by SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney.
Labour group leader Cllr Willie Innes, Iain Gray MSP, and a number of other Labour councillors and activists joined campaigners from across Scotland at the lobby, which was organised by trade unions Unite, Unison and GMB.
Speaking after the action, Cllr Willie Innes said:
“Since returning to power in 2012, the Labour group on East Lothian Council has done everything possible to repair the damage inflicted on the authority’s finances by the previous SNP administration, while at the same time protecting essential frontline services. It has not been easy, but we have managed to achieve both of those goals.
“However, the funding offer currently on the table from John Swinney puts that positive progress at risk by punching a £10 million hole in East Lothian’s finances. That’s a huge funding gap for our county, especially as it follows on from several years of the council tax freeze and ever tightening budgets.
“We have joined councils across Scotland in urging Mr Swinney to think again and help us to protect local services and communities rather than decimating them in the way he is proposing. Whatever the final outcome, I will always make decisions that allow the most valued local public services to continue to deliver for our local communities.”
Iain Gray MSP said:
“After nearly a decade in office and a majority in parliament the SNP aren’t rejecting austerity -; they are accepting it and trying to impose it on our local services. John Swinney’s plan to force councils to accept half a billion pounds of cuts would hit vital services across Scotland, including schools and nurseries. We believe that we should be cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms, not the budgets for our schools.
“Mr Swinney’s cuts to East Lothian Council’s budget would force the council to make really difficult decisions about local services. We offered an alternative to austerity -; a 1 pence increase in the Scottish rate of income tax to protect Scotland’s public services -; but the SNP rejected that and stuck with their cuts agenda.
“I know Willie Innes and his team will do everything they can to protect our services, but they shouldn’t have to face cuts on this scale.”