All the talk now is of the savings which Midlothian Council will have to make to balance its budget. To that end it has issued a list of proposals with the savings attached to consult with you. Consult, these are not decisions. No-one wants to be in this position but why is this happening?
Well you and I know that inflation has hit the roof, running somewhere in the region of 10% affecting everything we need, added to that the cost of fuel.
But why is it so bad in the UK? Yes, in Europe and the USA they have fuel increases, yes the cost of covid plays its part but they are nowhere in the state the UK economy is in. Context is everything in life. Here is the context.
For the past 12 years of Tory government the UK economy stagnated and was weak. Brexit is imposed on Scotland and is pursued even in the middle of a pandemic which has its own economic consequences. Practically every economic commentator, even Mark Cairney former governor of the Bank of England is telling us that Brexit is bad for the UK economy. To add insult to injury after the buffoonery of Boris we have Liz Truss imposed on us by a few hundred thousand Tory loyalists. Her intervention into the economy, was short but deadly and within hours of her chancellor’s announcement inflation shot sky high. Google in UK and economy and it’s not cheery news.
Back to Midlothian Council which like many councils, indeed the Scottish Government, is fighting the UK economic failures with its back to the wall. The Scottish Government budget, just like Midlothian Council is fixed. It must balance its books too. With all these pressures it is facing pay demands across the public sector: currently teachers and possibly firefighters. Every percentage increase comes out of that fixed budget paying for our health and care services, education and so on.
Money is also paid out to COSLA (Convention of Local Authorities all 32 of them) to be distributed to each local authority under a formula agreed by COSLA so no local authority negotiates directly with the Scottish Government. You can imagine how fraught and unsatisfactory that would be with 32 separate negotiations going on at any time.
The Scottish Government’s own budget was set when inflation was 3% so 10% inflation chopped £1.4 billion off its value so even though it increased by 7% the budget to Midlothian Council that cannot match the 10% inflation it too is having to cope with. It therefore cannot do all it used to. Neither can the Scottish Government magic up more money. That is where we are and I take no pleasure in saying this.
This probably has taken Scotland to the crossroads. Do we keep paying the penalty of UK mismanagement? Do we keep paying the penalty of Brexit? It will be more of the same for decades unless and until we have control of our own economy. You might say now is not the time to talk of independence but I would say this is the very time, when as a result of UK mismanagement the very necessities of life: food , fuel, local services are under attack.
My best wishes to you from this year 2023, a year that will be tough and hardest on the most vulnerable.
Perfectly understandable pay demands are being made of the Scottish Government by health workforce, teachers, ambulance, Fire & Rescue ,to counter inflation. These would have to come from a budget set when inflation was 3%. As a result, especially of Trussonomics ,inflation jumped from 3% when the Scottish budget was set, to 11% and Brexit has helped add to inflation also leaving us short of a workforce, especially in the care and health sector. That 11% inflation has knocked £1.4 billion, yes billion, from that budget for public services.
It follows, and you don’t need a degree in arithmetic, that any increases in pay awards has to mean cuts elsewhere. All of this this begs the question, why are we putting up with this? We are at the mercy of inflation and the fall-out from Brexit neither of which we in Scotland voted for. There are only 6 Tory MPs in Scotland, 1 Labour and 4 Lib/Dems to 45 SNP MPs. We also voted 62% Remain.
Across Midlothian as in councils elsewhere, there are tough choices ahead. The Scottish Government has mitigated where and if it can. It has provided the Child Payment to qualifying families of £25 per week for each child, I repeat, each child under the age of 16. The Baby Box has over a 90% uptake providing the best start for all babies whose mothers claim it. With young people in mind it extended concessionary travel to all under 22. Crucially as we fall victim to winter viruses, prescriptions are free but costs over £9 per item in England. But why are we taking these protective steps, when we voted for none of this UK mismanagement and austerity?
Lifesaver: the special tubs of LoSalt® tell people how to spot the symptoms of a stroke.
This letter has been written by John Watson, Associate Director Scotland, The Stroke Association
In Scotland, more than five million adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. And for every ten people diagnosed with high blood pressure, seven remain undiagnosed and untreated.
That’s extremely worrying to our charity as high blood pressure is the biggest single risk factor for a stroke.
Please consider making a New Year’s Resolution to lower your blood pressure, even by a small amount, to help stay healthy in 2023.
One way to do this is to reduce your sodium intake. Most sodium is in the salt we eat and that’s why we’re proud to support Season with Sense, a public health campaign which aims to drive down consumer sodium intake. Find out more at www.seasonwithsense.com.
By making small changes to our diet – such as cutting the amount or type of salt we use – we can greatly reduce our risk of serious health conditions such as stroke.
We know it can be hard to cut out salt completely, so it’s good to know there are alternatives to regular table, sea and rock salts, such as LoSalt® – which has two thirds less sodium (66%), without any taste compromise.
When you’re out shopping, look out for the special tubs of LoSalt® on sale in supermarkets. For every tub sold, a 20p donation will be made to the Stroke Association to help fund the vital work we do to support stroke survivors and carers. Last year, the promotional tubs raised a staggering £30,000, all of which helped towards rebuilding lives.
The tubs will also have information on the FAST test. Face, Arms, Speech, are the most common signs that someone is having a stroke. Time tells you that Stroke is a medical emergency and you must phone 999 straight away. By Acting FAST you could save someone’s life or reduce the likelihood of serious disability.
Please note that if you take certain types of medication that affect potassium levels, LoSalt® and other reduced sodium salt alternatives may not be suitable for you. This may include people receiving medication for diabetes, heart or kidney disorders. Check with your GP for advice.
Associate Director Scotland
The Stroke Association