After 10 months in power and with their first joint budget on the table, how is the SNP and Labour joint administration at Fife Council doing?
The SNP fought May’s council election against incumbent Labour on the basis that it would not be business as usual.
Since then, ill-conceived, million-pound-plus capital projects in central Fife which attracted overwhelming local hostility and calls for scrutiny during the last Labour administration have been pushed through unchecked, with no indication that any lessons for future capital spending have been learnt.
Cuts to the education budget, which took the form of eliminating vacant teaching posts, were the one distinct Labour policy the SNP campaigned hard against during last year’s election campaigns. Now the SNP has co-authored a budget which will remove precisely these vacant posts. Together with a reduction of support staff, this will inevitably mean bigger classes.
When setting their last budget Labour railed against the habitual, year on year cuts to Council funding inflicted by the SNP at Holyrood. By contrast, their criticism this year has been barely audible for fear of offending their new best friends. Fife SNP has been utterly silent about the earth-scorching cuts to council budgets proposed by Derek Mackay, and then softened by the £11 million uplift secured by the Greens for their votes at Holyrood. Fife SNP leader David Alexander even sweetly waved away Mr Mackay’s embarrassing miscalculation which led him to claw back half a million from his initial offer to Fife.
The joint SNP/Labour budget is same old, same old. There’s no bold or innovative thinking, on either social or economic fronts. There’s another 3% Council Tax rise in a desperate bid to stand still. Like its predecessors, this budget piles on the misery for council staff; departments which have been cut to the bone can now cope with 190 fewer full-time workers. In the meantime, Fife’s decline continues – looming redundancies at Bifab, businesses fleeing our high streets, increasing child poverty, rising drug deaths, worsening pupil performance, the appalling state of our roads have all been recent news stories.
On the evidence so far, the SNP/Labour administration in Fife has trodden a lot of water and successfully covered each other’s backs. I’m not sure that’s what Fife needs – or what people thought they were voting for last May.