Public Works Campaign
Local Government Election 5th May 2017
7th April 2017
Branch writes to candidates to ask - Will you support public services and workers' rights?
Click here for UNISON Scotland's Local Government Elections 2017 page
The Scottish local government elections take place on Thursday 4 May 2017.
Local government has borne the brunt of austerity cuts over the last decade. UNISON is campaigning for fully resourced and accountable public services in local communities delivered by a fairly paid council workforce.
The branch has written to all candidates to ask them if they will support Scotland’s Fair Work Framework, which pledges that staff should have security, respect, fulfilment, opportunity and an effective voice at work.
If they will invest in public services and oppose the policy of austerity, which is starving essential wellbeing services of adequate funding.
If they will commit to keeping education, social care and other local public services, under direct local democratic control.
Here are the responses received so far from candidates in alphabetical order of their parties or none:
PLEASE CONSIDER THIS WHEN CASTING YOUR VOTE AND VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WHO WILL PROTECT PUBLIC SERVICES AND WORKERS' RIGHTS.
Full text of the letter:
I am writing to you as a resident of Aberdeenshire, an Aberdeenshire Council employee, and as a Trade Union Representative for UNISON. I am aware that you will be standing in the Local Government elections in a bid to represent Aberdeenshire Council as a Councillor. As such, I would like to ask you a number of questions about what you would do to protect services and staff during your tenure, should you be elected.
Over the past ten years, budgets have been cut to Local Government and, at the same time, demands on services have greatly increased. What would you do to ensure Aberdeenshire Council had adequate funding to maintain, or increase, the services to the people of Aberdeenshire?
Will you support Scotland’s Fair Work Framework, which pledges that staff should have security, respect, fulfilment, opportunity and an effective voice at work? Will you, should you be elected, invest in public services and oppose the policy of austerity, which is starving essential wellbeing services of adequate funding? Will you commit to keeping education, social care and other local public services, under direct local democratic control?
We have written to our members, informing them that we are writing to all prospective candidates, and have committed to sharing the responses or omissions we receive.
Replies from Candidates
Stephen Calder (Peterhead South & Cruden)
I am aware that budgets have been cut to Local Government by central government, affecting the provision and charging of services provided by local authorities. At the same time demands on essential services have been increasing and costs increasing.
If elected I will certainly work to maintain or improve essential services, including education and social care and I have a record of supporting public services and public service workers' working conditions and pay.
I totally oppose the government's policy of austerity, privitisation and public service cuts and commit to keeping education, social care and other public services under direct local democratic control.
I support Scotland's Fair Work Framework, which pledges that staff should have security, respect, fulfilment, opportunity and an effective voice at work.
At this time, like never before, we need to work to defend our health, education and other services which are seriously under attack.
Anne Reid (Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside)
I have first hand knowledge of Aberdeenshire council as I worked there briefly on a short term contract within landscaping services and saw how the organisation works. Like most big employers it is top heavy with management and as we both know any cuts made in employment don't start at the top. Without knowing for certain, I imagine that this is the same for all areas within the council.
I am aware that posts were made redundant last year in various areas and that new posts were created for most of these people - who were not suited to these roles. These people to my knowledge are still in these roles at supervisory/management levels.
Something I also discovered whilst working with the council was the money that is wasted, money that could be used for social care, public services etc.
It's a case of the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. The colleagues I worked with were desperate to tell supervisors and line managers where money could be saved, where money was being wasted and it all fell on deaf ears. The 'team talks' they were promised once a month never materialised. In my time there, I met the area manager only once and the supervisor on 2 occasions.
When decisons on spending are being made they are not asking the right people. I know far more about what goes on at ground level that the higher management and directors do. There is a severe lack of communication within the council.
Unfortunately, products and services are getting more expensive and cuts will continue, sadly that is a fact of life.
The reason I am standing for election is that:
I want to help those within the ward that need help - whether is be education, public services or social care.
A good example within Aberdeenshire is the severe lack of teachers, Aboyne Academy is a good example. There are classes that have no teachers. The students are given work at the beginning of the session and there is no monitoring or help. I know of one particular student who is severely dyslexic and is not getting the help and assistance he requires. He is a very bright young lad but if he doesn't get the help he needs now he will struggle in later life.
Why is there not a huge recruitment drive going on in Aberdeenshire for teacher training? Youngsters can't get to colleges and learning centres courtesy of the inadequte bus service in rural areas, not all students are priveleged enough to either have access to a car or have a car of their own. Even once some of these youngsters qualified as teachers there are few affordable homes to be had with the ward.
The mental health awareness forum revelaed that youths with mental health are given a 'phone consultation' due to cuts. What good is that, these yougsters need help and support, not a 10 minute phone call with some faceless expert. How do your read between the lines when you can't see the person you are talking to. There's no time for research into the indivuals as everyone is always on the clock.
Cuts are going to continue but I will lobby against it and get our voice heard, but spending wisely and making savings in other areas where money is wasted would be my way forward so that those that need help get the proper help they require and deserve as human beings.
Doreen Mair (Fraserburgh and District)
Please excuse my delay in replying to your letter, I am moving house at present and life is a little hectic!!
As you know it is not possible to predict the outcome of the upcoming election so this answer is purely based on what I would like to be able to do.
I would want to ensure that all monies raised in Aberdeenshire remain within the county and not filtered down into the central belt. I have always totally disagreed with the council tax freeze and knew that eventually it would lead to hardship.
I fully agree with the Fair Work Framework, I strongly believe in workers having a voice in the workplace, I have been on the receiving end of unfair/bullying tactics bat work.
Although I realise that these are hard economic times I firmly believe that every aspect of spending must be looked at in a comprehensive way to ensure that monies are not wasted but that essential services receive adequate funding to carry out the functions needed, reduce waste not service.
Also I believe it is in the best interest of the community, and makes sounds financial sense, that loca, authorities are in charge of education, social care etc.
I have made it a pledge of my campaign to make no false promises and speak no empty words, I will take each issue as it comes making a decision based on research and in the best interests of the community.
Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Andy Kille (Fraserburgh and District)
Thank you for your letter of 11th April.
As you highlight, for the last decade Aberdeenshire Council has suffered significant funding cuts from the SNP administration at Holyrood, despite their receiving regular increases from Westminster. Aberdeenshire is currently funded at below the average Council funding level by Holyrood.
This ever decreasing revenue will be exacerbated by the failure of the SNP Government to return local taxes to Aberdeenshire, an example of which is the £93m allocated to Aberdeenshire next year from business rates which are expected to actually raise £116m. The question of where the "missing" £23m will go has yet to be answered by the SNP.
Large scale Council budgets are no different to smaller household budgets - when there is less money coming in to the household, there is less to spend or invest, that is a universal fact of life, however unpleasant. It is not some policy choice that is chosen over other options, as there are none.
Some people call it "belt tightening" others refer to it as "austerity", or "fiscal responsibility" but whichever phrase one uses - less money is still less money. I would be delighted to oppose the effects of having "less money" - but unfortunately that doesn't make Holyrood give us any more of it!
Naturally we are lobbying our Conservative MSPs at Holyrood, to bring pressure to bear on the SNP administration to provide more adequate funding. Something, incidentally, that an Independent, non party aligned Councillor or Candidate could not do, as they have no MSPs and that an SNP candidate would not do, as it would oppose their own hierarchy.
The budget for next year has already been set. Naturally, as a candidate and not a sitting Councillor, I was not able to participate in that and it was set by a small majority in the, currently SNP led, Council.
However, looking to the future, the Conservative and Unionist party has publicly released both it's national and Aberdeenshire manifestos. These deal with how, if elected, we will strive to maintain services within the constraints imposed upon us that you have highlighted.
The Conservatives are very keen to keep Education, social care and other public services under direct local democratic control - as you ask - but again, if the SNP Government at Holyrood decide to continue with their centralisation agenda, this may not be a decision that is within our power to take, although, again we can lobby via our MSPs.
I hope that has answered your questions and look forward to your support in trying to keep these services local and for having sufficient funds for them being provided by Holyrood, whilst, in the meantime, doing the best we can with the lesser monies they are providing.
Marion Buchan (Central Buchan)
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
As you well know Aberdeenshire is currently underfunded compared to other councils. This isn’t helped by the fact that £93m was allocated by the SNP government from projected business rates receipts when it should have been £116m and the question of the missing £23m still remains a mystery.
At present, I have no control whatsoever on where this money is spent. I am simply a candidate and not a sitting councillor. However the Conservatives are committed that taxes raised locally are spent locally and not constantly funnelled down to the Central Belt. Education, social care and other public services are always top of our list but unless we can lobby via our MSPs, the SNP will continue with their centralisation agenda, gradually leaving the Northeast behind.
Peter Young (West Garioch)
Thank you for your letter dated 11 April concerning the forthcoming Aberdeenshire Council elections. I am pleased to see your union taking such an active role in the process.
Firstly, I would like to be clear that I support the public provision of essential services by directly employed staff, enjoying fair rates of pay and good conditions of employment. The staff who deliver these services are an important asset to the community and I support the Ethical Care Charter and the Construction Charter.
Within the outgoing Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Labour Councillors ensured staff were paid at least the living wage, opposed blacklisting and secured Aberdeenshire Council opposition to the Trade Union Bill.
On the question of funding, you will be aware that the Council receives only around 15% of its funding from Council Tax and that the great bulk of the funding comes from the Scottish Government. During the years of Conservative Government austerity, during which they have chosen to cut public services rather than invest, the SNP in government in Holyrood have made the situation worse by centralising power, cutting Council grants and freezing Council Tax. Scottish Labour is opposed to both the Conservative and SNP approach to cutting services, and to the current system of Council Tax. We believe that Council Tax should be based on income, which would be fairer and would reduce the amount for the majority of households.
You refer in particular to the Fair Work Framework. If this is the Fair Work Convention report of 2016, I am happy to support the principles set out in that document covering opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect. I also believe in the concept of an effective voice. Trade Unions must be seen as partners in policy implementation. As a trade union representative and having spent 10 years on the national executive of a progressive union in the early part of my career, I have first-hand experience of the benefits of close cooperation between employer and employees and have seen the damage that occurs when this does not exist.
I hope that this provides you with information that your members will find helpful when deciding how to cast their vote on 4 May.
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Andrew Hassan (Mid-Formartine)
On the 4th May, I am standing as the Scottish Liberal Democrats Candidate in Mid Formartine.
I have two main aims - to preserve Local Democracy, and to provide a better future for the next generation.
On the first point - I feel we are slowly piece by piece losing our local decision making - and it now now at the point that could be deemed “worrying”.
Local decisions deserve local control.
The current government’s centralisation agenda is of course the catalyst for this - with particular reference to the police & fire services - losing local accountability and in the main, a human face to services.
We simply cannot allow any Council Services to be treated the same way - and if elected, I will fight hard to preserve services locally - keeping the jobs here, and allowing local people to speak to local people about them.
And then there is the next generation. Too many young people are turning away from showing an interest in politics - and this simply has to change.
We need to find out why they are becoming dis-engaged so early in their lives and try to do more to encourage them to at the very least use their vote.
Maybe it is because they feel unrepresented, maybe they don’t understand what the parties stand for - whatever it is for the greater good of us all we need to start taking notice.
One way of meeting their needs is to try and do more for the council services they use (schools & the college, bus service, leisure facilities). But to do that - we need to fund the council properly. As has been well documented in recent years, Aberdeenshire is the second lowest funded council in Scotland - so I’ll be lobbying to try and encourage whoever runs the council from this may to keep the pressure on the Scottish Government to give us the funding we are entitled too - so we can not only preserve services, but also improve services to secure the jobs of the people delivering them.
Particularly on the education front - ensuring our youngster acquire the right skills required for their career path is vital to long-term job retention & with a growing economy hopefully also job creation further down the line.
I intend, if elected, to be a hardworking Councillor who gets out in the community and listens to what they want from the council - and acting on it.
A vote for me will be a vote for a Local Champion keen to get things done.
Thank you for reading, please get in touch if there are any further issues ahead of the election on May 4th.
Scottish Libertarian Party
Derek Scott (Westhill and District)
I received your letter today, thank you for sending that on to me - as you've asked a number of questions, and some of them will require a reasonably lengthy explanation of my party's position, it is only right that I dignify it with an adequately lengthy reply, divided up into the sections as per your letter:
"What would you do to ensure Aberdeenshire council had adequate funding to maintain, or increase, the services to the people of Aberdeenshire?"
You're making an assumption that I would either want to maintain or increase services provided by the council - when, in fact, I genuinely wouldn't trust the council to run a child's piggybank. I don't believe that so called essential services provided by the council can be only provided for the council - if services truly are essential people would choose to pay for them. According to Aberdeenshire council's own revenue figures, total expenditure is expected to be £545 Million in 2017/18 rising to over £585 Million in 2021/22. I genuinely believe that if the local council cannot make efficient use of hundreds of millions of pounds - hardly spare change whatever way you cut i t- then they should be looking at what they're actually doing, and what people actually want them to do, rather than how they can extract further revenues from the local populace.
The fact is, whether the local council likes to acknowledge it or not, that this area is in one of the worst economic depressions it has seen in decades. Increasing council taxes and business rates to pay for services of dubious utility is a recipe for families losing their homes and businesses - which has obvious knockon effects for future tax revenue generation. When Mortgage arrears are running at double the UK average and have tripled since 2012 (http://www.scottishfinancialnews.com/8693/oil-slump-sees-mortgage-arrears-triple-in-aberdeen-moodys/#) ( the source is for Aberdeen, but the figures are reflected in our local area as well) asking local people to pay their council taxes at all, never mind expecting them to increase year-on-year is not something I can possibly support. We should be looking instead at what the councils can stop doing and returning those resources to local people for them to decide on what services are actually 'essential'.
"Will you support Scotland's fairwork Framework, which pledges that staff should have security, respect, fulfilment, opportunity and an effective voice at work?"
I would support elements of it - as I don't believe it applies universally in all conditions so I can't give it blanket support. Please see explanation below:
These individual elements should be taken in turn:
Security of contractual employment conditions is, I fully agree, a desirable condition of employment - however, that does not mean that compelling binding contracts on any employers is something that will actually produce a desirable outcome. A far greater security for all would be able to be effected if there were more than one single 'game in town' - you only have to look at the devastating consequences of the oil crash on the local community to realise that dependence on one industry or one employer to realise that sole sourcing employment is a way of building insecurity, not stability or security into the local economy. Likewise, compelling more stringently binding contracts on any employer is a recipe for disaster. The council may not care about this, as they don't actually generate any fair revenue themselves - but businesses actually have to generate their own revenue and profits, before hiring staff and providing opportunity to people and a binding contract which makes it far more difficult for businesses to be shedding workforce in difficult times like this means that they will hold off of hiring staff. This results in decreased opportunity and decreased community security, so ultimately, while I support the desire, I don't think that compulsion through law will result in the outcome which this seeks to achieve.
Fully agree with the position of the Fairwork Framework here - to allow people to perform at their best fear has to be driven from the workplace, and that is ultimately up to senior management. Accountability must lie with them and the people who are best fitted to hold them to account in this regard are the employees.
Sorry, I can't agree with this - Fulfilment is a feeling and feelings are subjective to the individual. Whether you feel fulfilled is hugely dependent on the individual - some people might like working behind a bar, some people might feel wasted doing the same job - so it is quite literally impossible to build or design fulfilment into a job. Whether it sounds nice or not, Jobs are a series of productive tasks that require to be carried out with an end goal in mind. Whether someone enjoys those tasks or not can vary greatly depending both on the individual and the tasks, so no, this is just idealism. I'd far rather see a situation where, if someone is unfulfilled at their work, there were more employers down the road that were able to offer alternative work, which may be more fulfilling. The more employers and more choice you have, the greater opportunity and resultant security.
Again, this is great, but I'm not sure how this relates to real people's real businesses - the local chip shop, the local nursery or the local small hotel? If you only have five employees and, after all wages, taxes and costs, generate profits that are in the thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, how will you pay for training? And what training can these businesses offer that not only benefit the employee, but will help them do the job for which they were employed better? If I were to hire someone for doing my accounts, I'm not going to be very inclined to pay for them to undertake a course in video-game design, am I?
The reality is that loads of businesses cannot meet these aspirational targets as they simply aren't applicable to them - and I certainly don't think they should be condemned for doing so. I will say that I believe that opportunity is the single most important factor in the future success available to the local community - but I believe that the best way to have that is by having a much more competitive market place for employees. Given how many free courses are available online these days, it doesn't take much time, effort or cost for an individual to upskill to get an entry level job in something they desire to do - but if they don't have places to take those skills, then that effort is all for nought. Given that the impact of the recent business rates rise on the community already - I live in Westhill and we have already had one local nursery close as a result of those raises - I would suggest that a far better tactic would be to abolish business rates entirely and allow a greater opportunity for people to start their own businesses and give themselves the opportunities that they want.
Effective voice at work:
Fully agree here, and think that the recent legal restrictions on trade union activity by the Conservatives are ridiculous. It's 100% up to employees whether they wish to withhold their labour and I fully support them to do it - flipside of that is, I fully support an employers right to fire employees for refusing to work as well. The best way around such confrontation is the adoption of the respect agenda as discussed above - fully respectful negotiations between employees and their workforces are the best ways to achieve optimal outcomes for everyone involved.
"Will you, should be elected, invest in public services and oppose the policy of austerity, which is starving essential wellbeing services of adequate funding?"
two questions in one here:
Invest in public services? :
I don't believe that 'investing' is the right word here - as investing implies future growth generated by the use of capital. That's not what public services are - they are consumers of capital. So no, I would not 'Invest' - I would seek to campaign for the return of these resources to the people who were generating them, families and workers in the NE of Scotland. To demand that council run services have a primacy over people keeping their homes at a time of economic depression (or any other time) is abhorrent so no, I would not support tax rises so that the council can plant trees in the middle of local football fields.
Oppose the policy of Austerity?:
£525 Million budget a year is not austerity. It is a considerable budget. If the council mismanages it we should not be blaming people for not paying high enough taxes - because let's face it, the richest in society have enough money to pay for accountants to exploit every loophole in the book, so it's always the less rich in Society, the working and middle classes who pay the heaviest burden - but instead we should be asking what is actually essential. And as I said before, if it's actually essential, people will pay for it. To be spending almost five million a year on Libraries at a time when nearly everyone has a mobile phone is an insane proposition - download the kindle app, boom, several thousand free books. No cost to taxpayers, no deficiency in people's education. This is the more so when schools and universities have their own libraries as well - I mean, geez, why not monetize those? There's absolutely no need for public libraries in this day and age - especially when they're funded through compulsion. Put the charges up to where they were self funding and then see if people are actually willing to pay for them. You'll swiftly find out how 'essential' they really are - either folk will pay for them, in which case taxation is unjustified, or they won't, in which case taxation is still not justified as people clearly don't want their money spent on them.
From my perspective the more money the council have the more they will waste on things people don't genuinely want so the less money they have the better.
"Will you commit to keeping education, social care and other local public services, under direct democratic control?"
No - because I don't believe democracy or democratic control is desirable. Democratic control is what got you austerity. Democratic control is what got Jeremy Hunt in charge of the NHS. Democratic control is what got Trump in the white house. The further that power is kept from those that wish to possess it the better - What if Jeremy Hunt was in charge of the 'Health' service but had a budget of £0? What if the Health service was actually in charge of the patients and the doctors? Wouldn't that actually generate better outcomes, than having politicians control it? Politicians are NOT the people - and I truly believe that the less control over these areas that politicians have the better. Why not have the education budget under the control of local community schools groups? What if they owned the schools and had total control over the education that their children were receiving? For me, that is far more desirable than a system run by politicians which only responds to their whims. So goes for education, so goes for every other service currently under control of the council or government in general. The further they are kept away from the grubby hands of politicians the better. We are the only party that campaigns for this - all the rest of them want more control, more wastage and less quality. We want genuine control for local people - not the phantasm of democratic control.
Okay, thanks for giving me the chance to outline our position Inez, If you have any follow up queries I'd be of course more than happy to answer them. I understand full well that these answers may not be the ones that you or your members would wish to hear, but frankly, we've had years and years of lying politicans trying to please everyone and the damage this dishonesty has caused to local communities and to a belief in politics as an agent of change is enormous. It's time for any people who do wish to engage in the political process to actually be honest about what they stand for, even if others disagree with them.
Scottish National Party
Richard Thomson, (Ellon and District) SNP Group Leader on behalf of SNP candidates
Many thanks for your letter of 11 April, which you sent on behalf of Unison to all Aberdeenshire SNP local election candidates.
I am sure that a number of our candidates will wish to respond to you directly with their own personal remarks. In the event, my response is one which can be taken as applicable for all SNP candidates standing in Aberdeenshire at this election.
Although local government budgets have been reduced, we take some comfort from the fact that local government in Scotland has not faced reductions on anything like the same scale as local authorities south of the border.
With the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it seems unlikely that the Chancellor’s austerity policies are going to change any time soon despite the SNP's firm and frequently articulated opposition to this approach. Sadly, this will likely have a continuing knock-on effect for the resources available to the Scottish Finance Secretary and consequently, to local government.
We will continue to do all that we can to secure financial backing from the Scottish Government which is commensurate with our growing population and the corresponding demands on our services and capital expenditure programmes.
We will also continue to look at how the council can continue to grow its revenues, whether through reviewing the charges which are levied to recover the costs of services or where appropriate, through seeking to increase demand and therefore revenues.
Protecting services and jobs is a priority for us. However, if we continue to find ourselves in an environment of reducing revenue support, we commit to continuing our approach of seeking genuine efficiencies and service redesign first before we consider service reductions. We very much value the involvement of the trade unions as part of this approach and will continue to aim in future years for a policy of no compulsory redundancies.
We support Scotland’s Fair Work Framework and would very much hope that Aberdeenshire Council meets most if not all of the criteria already. However, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss directly with trade union colleagues where you feel any gaps might be in our current approach, in order that we can see what might be done to address this.
We are fully committed to keeping our public services under direct democratic control, although we do remain open to the sharing of services and alternative delivery models where it is appropriate and in the interests of local residents for us to do so. Where we do look at alternative delivery models - such as is currently being explored for sports and leisure provision - we will always fully assess matters in terms of service quality, equality of provision, cost, and in terms of how it will impact on staffing, before reaching any decision on whether to change current arrangements.
I trust this is in order. If you would like to discuss any aspect of this response further, please feel free to contact me directly.
Ricky Taylor (Troup)
Thank you for your recent query and the important issues you raised.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks that the SNP Council group leader, Richard Thomson, previously sent to you.
Glen Reynolds (Banff and District)
I have been passed on your letter to my agent, Stephen Smith, as I am the SNP candidate for Ward 1 (Banff and District). I know that the SNP Group leader has responded to this and reiterate all that he says.
However, as a UNISON Branch Steward for Aberdeenshire Branch, and a member of the SNP Trade Union Group, I can assure you and the UNISON members that in addition to what Richard has said, I will aim to place the UNISON agenda at the top of my 'action list'. I have already mentioned my UNISON role and the GP situation throughout my election material, including a healthy dialogue I have had with the RCN in Scotland, along with the Health Minister at Holyrood.
I am also a Council worker (Community Safety, within Aberdeenshire Council), and the protection of public services is a key priority for any actions I may take, if elected. The creeping in of privatisation measures in the guise of 'economies' is to be prevented of course, and UNISON has had an active role here, which must be upheld.
Local community empowerment is very important, not least in early years and education/class room attainment, and I know how necessary an issue this can be (my better half is a primary school teacher). Retention of monies raised locally and funds being directed towards local schools, along with positive measure set out in the Community Empowerment Act, are steps in the right direction. We must ensure that such initiatives are extended further so that local democracy is increasingly at the heart of local decision making.
I hope this is of some help
David Donn (Fraserburgh and District)
Thank you for your query and the important issues you raise. I for one will support the Fair Work Framework and I fully agree with the reply sent to you by our SNP Council group leader Richard Thomson previously.
Alastair C Forsyth (Turriff and District)
Thank you for your letter to me via Stephen Smith per above. I received an e mail from my colleague Richard Thomson setting out our answers to your questions.
I have carefully read through our response and I am in agreement with what Richard has written.
I trust that the reply Richard gave you is satisfactory and I associate myself in agreement with the response.
The Social Democratic Party
David M Lansdell (North Kincardine)
I gratefully received your letter dated 11th April, and I have forwarded it to SDP Scotland HQ in Glasgow.
If I am elected as your councillor, I will consult with all interested parties including UNISON whose members work hard to deliver the services vital for Aberdeenshire. It is SDP policy to oppose the further privatisation and outsourcing of council services which generally led to higher costs and lower quality services and worse still a lack of democratic control. We also believe that frontline staff, as opposed to council fat cats, should receive proper pay rises.
The actual value of ‘cost saving’ initiatives should be thoroughly investigated and, as an independent voice inside the Council, I would fight to ensure utmost diligence and transparency in decision making. Along with a colleague I owned and operated a successful business and have a working knowledge of what due diligence actually means.
Robert Smillie was the first chairman of the STUC (as well as being co-founder of the Labour party) and his grandson, Blair Smillie, is SDP’s Key Policy Advisor; your members can be assured that our growing party seeks to uphold workers’ rights while the Tory Government in Westminster will be reviewing the legislation that was designed to protect workers across the UK.
If elected as councillor I promise to do my best to protect jobs and services from further cuts. These are tough times. The country has borrowed and spent too much in the previous decade and in the present one we have had to pay for it. The council tax doubled under the last Labour government making the tax burdensome on many payers especially the low paid and those on fixed incomes. Whilst it was initially welcomed by many, the SNP
Scottish Government’s Council Tax Freeze went on too long and too many cuts have been imposed on vital services.
Realistically, I feel that council tax needs to rise during the next few years in line with inflation, however we cannot go back to the heady days of the New Labour Government when money was wasted especially on fat cat salaries and rip off PFI schemes. Council Tax must represent value for money and fair exchange for the services rendered. I would vote to appropriately increase Council Tax to protect vital front line services such as Education, Social Care etc. if necessary.
I will also support and participate in the efforts other councillors to ensure that Aberdeenshire is not short changed by the Scottish Government over business rates. Business rates collected in Aberdeenshire should be used to pay for services in Aberdeenshire which is a sensible way to pay for services in Aberdeenshire.
Whilst we agree with many of the aims of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Framework, the SDP is currently reviewing it and preparing our response. We would also seek to liaise with UNISON to discuss the benefits of the initiative at further length.
What I feel is most important for all residents of Aberdeenshire to note is that, standing for SDP, I can act freely in the interests of constituents unburdened by a party whip. You will find further details of our Local Government Policy Platform at www.sdp.scot/localgovernment .
I would welcome a meeting with UNISON to discuss issues vital to workers across Aberdeenshire and hope to hear from you.