May I correct a couple of misperceptions which your piece in last week’s paper “NE Fife grit bins being reinstated” may have given rise to?
First, the article gives the impression that the local MP Stephen Gethins is single-handedly responsible for Fife Council restoring grit bins on a case by case basis. Community councils across NE Fife and, I would warrant, every one of the 16 elected members who represent wards in the area at Fife Council have been on to the relevant Council officers about the removal of specific grit bins – quite apart from numerous members of the public.
Second, Mr Gethins states that “Continued cuts to Scotland’s budgets by the UK Government previously forced a change in policy by the local authority, leading to the council removing 230 grit bins from our towns and villages”.
This is quite simply hogwash. If your income drops, it is up to you what you choose to economise on. It is exactly the same for Fife Council. A budget reduction did not force or require Fife Council to remove grit bins; it chose to do that rather than something else in order to balance its budget. And the people at Fife Council who decided to do that are the political administration, a coalition of Labour and, yes, SNP councillors. Mr Gethins’ colleagues in the SNP at Fife Council are responsible for the grit bin policy.
But there is an even bigger sleight of hand in Mr Gethins’ statement. The massively reduced budget that councils have had to deal with has come from the Scottish Government, and very little of the reduction is down to Westminster. The fact is that, according to research from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), the Scottish Government has cut budgets to local government at almost four times the rate of the corresponding cut to their own budget.
While the Scottish Government’s revenue budget has decreased by 1.8% in the past five years, it has slashed the spending it passes on to local government by 7.1%.
It is Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay, Mr Gethins’ SNP colleagues at Westminster, who are responsible by a factor of four for the “continued cuts” to Council budgets.
It is commendable that Mr Gethins has the interests of his constituents at heart, but he really needs to be a bit more truthful about his party’s responsibility at both local and national levels for the straits that they find themselves in.
Linda Holt (Councillor for East Neuk & Landward)