Sarah Boyack MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

What particular policy does the First Minister think we need to put on the agenda in Scotland, given that we have missed our targets three years in a row and that there are key areas, such as transport, housing and agriculture, where we need to make urgent progress?



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

This year, there is no sign of a flat-cash settlement, and several local authorities have received cuts. Will the Deputy First Minister admit that when he says that he will work to achieve an educational-outcomes-based approach, that is code for dropping the commitment on teacher numbers and class sizes? What does he have to say to the Educational Institute of Scotland, which has described that as a “betrayal”? What does he have to say to Unison, which has predicted that a further 40,000 jobs will be lost as a result of the settlement that has been announced today?

Given the cost rises for local authorities of 10 per cent since 2007, the fact that the Scottish Government now controls 82 per cent of local authority budgets, and the fact that people on lower incomes in disadvantaged areas are hit hardest by cuts to local government services, will the Deputy First Minister agree to widen the scope of the cross-party talks that he has proposed on what will come after the council tax—as recommended by the Local Government and Regeneration Committee—to include local government finance more widely and to enable more financial flexibility for local authorities to be considered?



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

I very much agree with John Wilson. I have suggested devolution from councils to their local communities. I also refer to the Crown Estate and to licensing issues going down to local communities, rather than just being dealt with by local authorities.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

We should be trying to shift funding for older people’s care in the health budgets towards local authorities. Health and social care integration is the right thing to do in principle, but I observe that it is not currently happening. If we are considering a review of local government finance, how we make that work in practice is one of the issues that must be addressed. Just lecturing people and being disappointed in them for not delivering integration is not good enough. We need to be able to make sure that it happens.

14:59  

Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

No.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

No, I definitely will not.

The Smith agreement transfers new powers to the Scottish Government, and I hope that the Scottish Government will consider transferring those powers on to local government.

The funding crisis that local government faces is severe and needs to be owned up to. I had a look at the City of Edinburgh Council’s budget challenge, in which Edinburgh residents go online and decide how they want to spend the council’s money. Once people start going in to change the sliders, they realise just how difficult those decisions are. With the health board cash-strapped and everyone agreeing that we need to transfer resource into social care, people need only try to change the social care budget and move up the housing budget and the services for local care and they will see how difficult that is to do with a £67 million overspend. Many of the budgets that people would want to shift further back will come up with a red-line issue saying that, if they did that, the council would not be able to ensure that it scrutinised its budget properly, which would lead to other problems.

Councils are at one of the toughest times since the mid period of the previous Conservative Government decades ago.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

Although the headline is about more scope and power for local government, if we look at the detail of the council tax freeze and its implications for local government funding, the irony is that local government does not have the flexibility in day-to-day decision making that Mr Stewart claims for it. I will come on to that.

I welcome the principle of cross-party discussions and I agree with the committee that they need to concern more than just the council tax. We need to consider other funding issues that local government has to deal with and other fund-raising opportunities. The problem is that, at the moment, local government is fixed on raising income through increasing charges, which does not satisfy the test of social equality or social inclusion. Increasing charges for services that used to be free means that people who are on council tax benefit and a low income are hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

The issue is complex and difficult, which is why I support the committee’s recommendation that we need to go beyond considering only the council tax. It is a relatively small part of councils’ income, most of which now comes directly from the Scottish Government. Although we talk about local government, we need to think about where we want the balance to lie. The COSLA-funded commission is absolutely clear about that, but the Scottish Government’s approach to the deals that have been struck with COSLA does not genuinely empower local authorities or local communities.

In a way, that is why I was so interested in the our islands, our future recommendations. They are radical and different. They say that one size does not and should not fit all. However, there is a bit in the middle that we need to think about. If cities have city deals and the island communities have the our islands, our future recommendations, what happens to the small or relatively modestly sized councils—such as Clackmannanshire Council and Perth and Kinross Council—that are caught in the middle and not automatically part of those wider debates?



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack

I was just referring to the committee, so I will take Kevin Stewart if he is brief.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

First, I note that this debate will be followed by a statement on the local government financial settlement, so I hope that members will accept that I will have to leave the chamber at some point this afternoon.

I very much welcome this chance to debate the Local Government and Regeneration Committee report. I think that 2014 will go down as an important year for the development of thinking about devolution, not just on the referendum question of independence versus devolution but on the stronger Scottish Parliament that will come from that. However, a debate that has been going on in parallel and to which Kevin Stewart and Margo Biagi have referred is the debate about double devolution, which is what I think we are here to discuss this afternoon.

I welcome the minister to his new post and say to him that it is important that we think about not only transferring power from the UK level to the Scottish level and from the Scottish level to local authorities, but transferring power to our communities. The committee rightly referenced the huge contribution to that debate that was made by the commission on strengthening local democracy in Scotland. The range of discussions and the number of people involved in that process and the length of time that it went on were helpful.

The Labour Party’s powers-for-a-purpose devolution commission looked at a fundamental question that I want to reflect on, particularly given the minister’s comments about finance and local government’s huge opportunities to shape its destiny.

One of the fundamental questions that we believe needs to be looked at is the extent to which local government exists to administer statutory services directed by this Parliament and paid for by the Scottish Government. What is local government’s role in implementing legislation and Scottish Government policy? What is the balance in terms of local accountability in representing democratic views across our different communities? What is the scope for local government to have a local state with the ambition that it wants and the capacity to intervene locally?

There is a balancing issue. Paradoxically, in the past few years, there has been more and more talk about community empowerment while there has been a centralising state in Scotland. That remains a live issue for the work that must be at the heart of the debate about finance.

The committee’s recommendations for genuine—



Meeting of the Parliament 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Sarah Boyack

I thank the cabinet secretary for his reply. Sadly, the ballot is now closed, so he can no longer join our party and give me that vote.

With the proportion of the population who are of pensionable age being projected to increase in the coming decades, we are all interested to know more about the impact that that will have on the Scottish Government’s responsibility for public sector pensions. I note from this year’s budget that the overall funding for the Scottish Public Pensions Agency is set to increase by more than 40 per cent in real terms, which includes an increase of more than 50 per cent in funding for the national health service superannuation scheme.

Can the cabinet secretary clarify the reason behind the significant increase, and provide assurances that funding for public sector pension schemes is sustainable in the long term?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
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YesDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
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NoCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
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NoCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
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YesDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
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YesDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
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AbstainDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
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AbstainCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
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NoCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Sarah Boyack
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11655: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11592: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11357: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11302: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11033: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10989: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10903: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10847: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10511: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10315: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Sarah Boyack
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03858: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23713: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23710: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23712: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23711: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23707: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03803: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23463: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23462: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03783: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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