Aberdeen City Council has released papers for their Urgent Business Committee which includes details of the financial impacts of COVID-19 on the council’s budget for the current year 2020/21.
The picture is not a good one, it speaks of unexpected expenditure and loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. A simple example being the loss of income from car parks as the public has been advised to stay at home. The budget approved back in March highlighted a need to make saving of £37.9m for the year which was going to be a stretch for the council but at the time it was assumed that with VSER and normal retirements this was a manageable figure which would not impact on staff.
The document released from the Chief Finance Officer talks of a best case scenario of the reality of the situation being some £27m more than that.
The reality is quite simple the UK and Scottish government have taken steps to protect the economy by making provision for the business community in the light of loss of income. They now need to turn their attention to the Local Authorities in Scotland. Local Authorities in England have been promised £1.6b, in Scotland we have been promised £155m of which through the funding mechanisms some £5m is likely to be allocated to Aberdeen City Council.
As a union, the situation is being discussed at both a regional and national level with the governments on a weekly basis. UNISON is in there fighting to help protect jobs and public services. At a branch level we are building a campaign to lobby both MP’s at Westminster and MSP’s at Holyrood to highlight the plight of local authorities as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. I would welcome your feedback and ideas as to how we can effectively campaign. Clearly marches and demos in this time are out of the question. Perhaps a chain around Holyrood and Westminster of socially-distanced activists would be effective, but difficult to organise. Maybe we need to be digitally creative.
We will keep you updated about the situation, if you want to get involved, we are looking for workplace contacts to come forward and help the branch spread the word.
The reality is that we are in a fight here, not against ACC but the UK and Scottish Governments to provide fair funding for Scottish local Authorities.
Les Tarr, Branch Secretary