Since 2011, the Scottish Government has made local government funding cuts to the tune of £1.5 billion, making it impossible for councils to deliver the full range of public services that our communities need. I am also concerned by the results of the 2017 Scottish Household Survey which found that public satisfaction in public services had fallen to the lowest level in ten years. Communities are watching important public services, from libraries to public toilets, disappear. You cannot empower local government if you impoverish it.
According to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre almost £750 million has been cut from frontline services including schools and social care. This is giving our councils little to no room to manoeuvre when it comes to budgeting and ultimately people are paying more while seeing their public services slashed.
At the 2017 general election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to look at providing councils with other ways to raise money. The manifesto committed to scrap the council tax and allow local authorities to use new options to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long-term.
I also support devolving the power to local government to charge a tourist tax, which would provide the means to raise additional revenue and ensure more economic power is held locally. Indeed, this policy backed by both the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) and Edinburgh City Council.
It is only by providing high-quality public services that can be readily accessed by the many – and not just a privileged few – that our communities and economy will truly begin to thrive and flourish. I believe that with the right resources, powers and people, councils can truly deliver transformative change in partnership with communities.