Budget Day demo—united in our call to invest in Council workers and jobs

On Thursday, we braved the chill and snow to demonstrate outside the City Chambers in solidarity with fellow trade unionists, activists and concerned citizens as the Council met to approve next year’s budget.

Read the budget papers and watch a webcast of the budget meeting, which includes the full deputations summarised below.

The Council have delivered a balanced budget for 2022/23, thanks to an underspend in 2021/22 and a 3% Council Tax rise, however the forecast for the years following looks bleak, with a gap in 2023/24 of around £55m with this gap increasing around £25m each year thereafter. The Council have said there must be a ‘robust savings plan’—which we know by now, translates to more cuts.

The demonstrators sought to raise awareness of the impact of cuts and call for measures to tackle the crises we face today that will be worsened by further cuts and by failing to change how the Council delivers services. We need a shake up and we need it now.

Council worker pay in the budget

The Budget accounts for a 3% pay increase—much less than the £3,000 flat rate pay claim the trade unions have put to COSLA.

The Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy for 2022/23 is

  • a wage floor of £10.50
  • £775 for those that are paid up to £25,000
  • £700 for those paid between £25,000 and £40,000 (2.8% to 1.8%)
  • £500 for those paid over £40,000 (maxium 1.2% increase).

Using the same brackets, the £3,000 flat rate payment would mean

  • at least a 12% increase for those paid up to £25,000
  • 7.5% increase for those paid £40,000, 3.75% increase for those on £80,000.

3% won’t pay the rent… I’ll ask all of our Unite members across Scotland to reduce their pay demands IF the Governor of the Bank of England reduces the cost of living.

Brian Robertson, Unite CEC Branch
Photo courtesy of Ian Mullen

Deputations

Our deputation

In our deputation, we focused on Council staff pay and gave a call for a change in how we deliver services—to focus on adequate staffing levels for frontline staff and bringing services in-house.

We also touched on the woeful condition of some Council homes and the need to create a workforce that can bring these homes up to scratch in light of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and to retrofit the homes to ensure they are energy efficient and can meet the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing in time —something the Housing Revenue Budget Strategy suggests will not be possible until way beyond the deadline.

Watch the deputation below.

Mindfulness doesn’t stop you being overworked and underpaid. Time and again stress is insultingly attributed to workers having a deficit in resilience, rather than stress being an appropriate response to harsh and demoralising material conditions.

Graeme Smith, Unite CEC Branch

Other deputations

Other deputations came from

  • EIS Edinburgh
  • Unite Community and Not for Profit
  • Unison Edinburgh.

Alison Murphy of EIS Edinburgh focused on the impact of cuts in schools and the difficulties faced there. Alison echoed our concerns about the lack of support staff and our call to invest in frontline staff

There’s a lot in the budget about spend to save. The failure to spend on our support staff is undermining all of these initiatives and it’s an utterly false saving. It means that some of your big ticket initiatives are not being delivered effectively because there isn’t the support needed to deliver them.

When you’re thinking about commitments for schools, when you’re thinking about commitments for education, please consider the pupil support assistants, the admin and other staff you need to make it possible.

Alison Murphy, EIS Edinburgh

Alison similarly highlighted the knock-on impact of failing to adequately staff support staff, with head teachers and other teaching roles being forced to spend their time on support tasks.

Des Loughney, Carmen Simon and Simon Heydon gave the deputation for Unite Community and Not for Profit. Their deputation focused on the crisis in social care staffing, raising the alarm about the impact on workers’ mental health and work-life balance and the reduced quality of services due to the pressures.

Simon shared our opinion, expressed in our recent deputation to the EIJB, that the staffing crisis is not the invention of the pandemic, but something that has been years in the making. He too called for an investment in frontline staff and a commitment to Fair Work principles. Carmen called for an urgent improvement of terms and conditions in the sector and highlighted the plight of personal assistants.

Gerry Stovin of Unison continued the Save Our Care Homes campaign with his call for the Council to reverse the removal of £15m from the budget to pay for a replacement care home and for additional funds from the Scottish Government to go towards this. He urged councillors not to ‘put their faith in the current Edinburgh Integration Joint Board and Health and Social Care Partnershp management’. Gerry highlighted the issues with proposals for future years, which propose a 5% cut next year and 3% thereafter.

We must continue to push the Scottish Government for a better funding settlement for local government.

Gerry Stovin, Unison Edinburgh

Summary

The deputations were written in isolation, but overlapped in many ways and brought to the fore the same issues. This is a clear indication of the problems facing the Council and the collective calls of the workforce:

  • fair pay for Council workers
  • ensure Fair Work principles
  • invest in frontline and support staff
  • improve the terms and conditions in social care
  • save council-owned and operated residential care.

We hope the councillors take these matters to heart and understand that the voices of the workforce should set the agenda for their priorities for the year ahead.

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