Dundee City Council Labour Group Budget statement  

Kevin Keenan

3 February 2012

Our budget proposals will help to improve the draft budget that has been prepared by the SNP Administration of the Council.

We believe that our proposals will not only protect core services, especially schools, but will also help to bring more employment to our City.

We started with a number of key assumptions.

Firstly, there is no room for further reductions in the number of teachers in our schools.  

Last year the SNP-led Council reduced the number of teachers in Dundee by 99 in total.

Secondly, in a budget of £5.5 million transport costs, there is room for the kinds of economies that every family in the City has been making by cutting down on journeys.

For Council staff, we think there needs to be more emphasis on home working, video conferences, phone calls and emails.

Thirdly, in planning the refurbishment and replacement of our schools, there must be some investment made available to spend on improving our four secondary schools built in the 1960s and on some primary schools not already nominated for refurbishment.

We think that it is important that pupils who attend these schools are not left behind pupils who are in other new or refurbished schools in our City.

Fourthly, in a City that has lost hundreds of jobs in the last year and is predicted by City Outlook to lose more than 2,700 public sector jobs by 2016, we can’t sit back.

We think it is important to generate more income for the city by tapping into external funding which will help make council budgets go further.  

That is where our proposal for income generators reporting directly to the Chief Executive comes in.

We have also to had to consider the difficulties of making ends meet because of the very tight financial settlement from the SNP Scottish Government, coupled with the demands that they have made on local government, and which they have recorded in the Single Outcome Agreement.

We should point out that we see Dundee’s SNP Administration looking for loopholes within the Agreement they made with the Government.

The Government want to retain teacher numbers, but this Administration will not count any visiting specialists when reporting figures to Government.   

The Government were right to make that demand of Local Government, as last year we saw 99 teacher posts taken out of our schools here in Dundee alone.

We must also consider the additional £67.7 million that was given by the UK Government to Scotland to assist Councils to freeze the Council Tax.

Dundee’s share of this cash would be around £1.7million.

Everyone should reflect on this when they see reduced services.

The Government intend to create two Change Funds, one to deal with Early Intervention, and the other to deal with Early Years.

This SNP Administration has cut music and physical education teachers to help free the funds for these projects.   

Yet what part of physical education will not be seen as early intervention as we look for our citizen to adopt a healthier life style?

The Labour Group in Dundee therefore propose to amend the Administration's budget by the following means; -

£240,000 will be taken from the City Development budget as yet unallocated funds for bus route subsidy.

£30,000 of this was planned to up-date the bus route information system. £210,000 of this subsidy is not as yet allocated to any route, and therefore should not adversely affect any existing bus service.

£10,000 reduction of one Civic Car and £8,500 in picture hire and floral decorations we consider would have little or no effect on service delivery.

In a City of our size a second Civic Car is an extravagance we shouldn't afford.

In bringing these additional savings to the table, this allows us to reinvest £124,000 which will retain all the visiting specialists who were to be cut by the Administration. We believe these teachers will assist classroom teachers to deliver more effectively the Curriculum for Excellence.

It also allows the investment of £134,500 which we propose should be used to create new post/s for those whose remit is reporting directly to the Chief Executive and to maximise income and assist with the creation of jobs for Dundee people.

We will issue proposals which will re-profile the capital spend in the City which would see an additional £1.4m spent much earlier on Primary and Secondary School refurbishments to enable more of our School Estate fit for the 21st Century matching pupils' needs.

In looking to generate income and indeed create employment, we offer the following comments for consideration:-

It is very likely that the large number of employees who have left Council employment have left behind a fully equipped work station.

Council must look for ways to open up these work stations to encourage new start businesses.

We currently have industrial work units and shops lying empty, and it would be better to receive some income rather than none at all.

The Council must do all it can to ensure economic growth and that the City must create jobs.

The City's Economic Development Department must look to utilise all the City's assets to maximise income.

Could Dundee House be marketed as a ready-made call centre, available for operation after hours and at weekends when it is not being used for day to day Council business?

Once again, I call for a small team to be established (Jobs Taskforce) within the City with members from a cross-section of people from civic life with business knowledge.

Jobs must be the City's top priority.

I trust that the SNP Administration and other parties will take these proposals seriously.

I believe that Labour are offering something different at a time when the City needs it.

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