Union chiefs slam Dundee council budget and raise fears of strike action

Protesters in Dundee’s City Square

Union leaders have pledged not to take Dundee City’s Council’s new budget lying down.

Council tax bills, the price of school meals and the cost of car parking is set to increase following Thursday’s budget, which was successfully pushed through by the SNP in its bid to plug a £15 million gap in finances.

Amendments from all three opposition parties were defeated by the minority SNP administration with support from Lord Provost Ian Borthwick.

Despite the budget delivering a 3% pay rise for all 5,000 local authority staff earning less than £36,000, representatives of the city’s top trade unions hit out at the cuts.

Councillors in the City Chambers ahead of the meeting

Stuart Fairweather, branch chairman of Unite the Union, said the budget was a blow for the people of Dundee.

He said: “The trade unions and workforce of Dundee City Council are disappointed to see yet another stage in the cuts process. This will now mean a protracted discussion about how cuts are implemented, which will unquestionably increase stress and strain on the workforce.”

Jim Macfarlane, of Unison, said it was depressing that Dundee people were facing another round of cuts.

He added: “The cuts and price increases agreed will impact on every person living in this city. We will now be looking at the detail of where these cuts and price increases will impact most. There is little doubt they will impact on people again and again. Any attempt now to change the terms and conditions of workers will be met with a ballot of our members — this is likely to be a ballot on industrial action.”

Stuart Fairweather of Unite

Maggie McGuire, of Unison, said she was disappointed and added: “There is no doubt at all that this budget will have an adverse affect on the people of Dundee.”

Jim Malone, of the Dundee People’s Assembly, said the council’s budget “beggared belief” and added: “We all understand that the council is cash strapped but the East End has 36% child poverty levels with 8,000 Dundee children living with poverty and deprivation. In 2018, this is completely unacceptable.

“We will be looking for the council to help with this issue and redress this fact.

“We want free meals for all children, from pre-school to high school. We also want to push for the entitlement card to give children free access to things like swimming pools, sports centres and libraries. We will also push for no increase in charges for music and school meals.”

Lib Dem councillor Fraser Macpherson made an impassioned plea for the local authority to stop the rising costs of school meals to help the “working poor.”

Labour’s Kevin Keenan said the budget failed to address issues that face the city.

But council leader John Alexander said: “This is a three-year budget for the future and shows our ambition for Dundee and all of its people.

Council leader John Alexander

“In 2018 alone, we will open seven new schools, hand over new council houses including wheelchair accessible properties, continue to invest millions of pounds in tackling fuel poverty through external insulation, deliver a Tay Cities Deal which creates jobs and opportunities for the future, the new railway station will open its doors and V&A Dundee will welcome the world to the city.

“We have tried to recognise the challenges facing Dundee.

“We know we need more housing and that we suffer from poverty and deprivation and drug abuse.”

Councillor Willie Sawers, depute convener of the policy and resources committee and finance spokesman, said: “The budget includes an increase of £3.5m in funding for those young people in our city who need enhanced levels of support.

“High quality education with strong learning and teaching is key to tackling disadvantages and allowing our young people greater opportunities in the future.”