Friday, 14 May 2010

When Will We Be Told About the Cuts?

In the past few days David Whitton, labour MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, has been circulating the rumour that free prescriptions and eye test could be the first targets of public spending cuts in Scotland.

The Scottish Budget is forecast to be cut by as much as £35 billion over the next 15 years and it is this fact which prompted the suggestion that a 'limit' on free prescriptions, free travel for pensioners and free school meals could be affected.

Prescription charges will be abolished entirely in Scotland from April next year although the tories have frequently stated it is a wrong move. They want a form of means testing.

Free eye tests must not be cut. They are essential to the well being of everyone in the country. Many of us conveniently forget to have our eyes tested, unless something goes wrong, but many other health issues can be exposed during an eye test.

The matter of free school meals for all 5 to 7 year olds is a difficult one. Twenty three of Scotland's thirty two local councils have said they can't afford to provide them within existing budgets. Aberdeen appears to have a reasonable compromise with preferring free breakfasts, which they say would provide better health and educational outcomes.

When is the Scottish government going to let the public know where the cuts will fall in our everyday lives? We've had months listening to the news that the last Westminster government is cutting £500m from the budget. I think most people understand that now and it's becoming tedious hearing the same soundbite so often. Along with others, I would like our government to give us an idea about where they intend to flash the scalpel. If they leave it much longer their insistence that they are a government which encourages transparency will be ridiculed.

It's not a sign of weakness to be honest but one of strength - but only if the timing is right. The time is now for the public to be consulted. The new Westminster government aren't giving us any information because they don't want uproar. Let's be honest in Scotland and show that we're a country which doesn't ignore our difficulties and are prepared to face the music together - if only we knew the score.


Uncle Marvo said...

Under NewLabour the cuts would have been announced when there was something else of significance under which to bury it.

Under ConDem, I haven't a clue. I suspect they don't know how bad it is yet, because the figures have never really been revealed.

The Big Dollop said...


The budget considerations for Scotland may very well be cut by the £35 Billion you quote.

Such a policy might give an insight as to reason why the present lot of shysters in government are pressing for Scotland to have the increased tax raising powers as recomended by the Calman Commission.

They are going to tell Holyrood to make up any shortfall in the public purse by imposing what will be in effect a " Tartan Tax" on all those who reside in Scotland.

A very astute move designed to placate some of the resentment(English tax payers) felt by people south of the Border regarding what they quite rightly see as a benefit deficit caused by Scotland having its own devolved parliament.


Billy said...

Nobody will know anything until the Tories know exactly what state the books are in and announce what they are going to be doing in their emergency budget, or whatever they call it, later in the year.

I don't know what Whitton is rabbiting on about because the cuts when they come will be Labour's cuts bcause of the shambles they have made of the economy.

subrosa said...

Marvo, my point is the Scottish government are allowing labour here to point out the cuts, as they did at FMQs this week.

The SG would be better not to deny they're happening.

subrosa said...

Now that could very well be BD but the SG can't deny the cuts Gray jumped on at FMQs this week. It seemed as if they were denying them.

Hythlodaeus said...

The Budget for 2010-11 is already set. The Tories have agreed not to make the cuts to Scotland lump sum until next year.

So, in real terms, it's unlikely that the Government know where cuts are going to finally fall.

When will we find out? November 2011, when John Swinny presents the next draft budget.

subrosa said...

Of course they're labour cuts Billy but I'd like to see the SG tell us about them rather than Gray getting the upper hand.

Hythlodaeus said...

Subrosa, the cuts in NHS Glasgow aren't government cuts. They are local cuts being carried out by the health board.

subrosa said...

Glasgow Health Board are making swingeing cuts this year Hythlodaeus. Why if the budgets have already been set?

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon will explain why they've initiated the cuts this year.

subrosa said...

Yes I understand that Hythlodaeus, but health boards aren't independent. They come under government control.

Mrs Rigby said...

Just a teeny point, eye test and prescription charges in England are means tested. Is there a reason why this shouldn't apply in Scotland? Aren't there people who could easily afford to pay, but don't?

Salmond is, apparently, going to ask for £70bn. He's going to ask for money because Scotland didn't get the Olympics (using Barnett), and he wants 'borrowing powers'.

If/when he gets rebuffed he'll blame England, probably.

subrosa said...

Yes I should have mentioned the post was about Scotland Mrs R. It's obviously not clear to readers.

Of course there are those who could pay but I do think eye tests should be free to all. I'm biased because I have an eye condition which requires tests every 3 months.

Have to give credit where credit's due Mrs R. Eck does try. Of course he'll blame England. They're the ones who won't share the spoils of the Olympics. ;)

William said...

Mrs Rigsby The red mist is affecting your eyesight---it's not £70 billion, nearer £700 million.

From:- money in the energy fund which is due to Scotland, but which if paid out would result in the Scottish Budget being reduced by the same amount.
Olympic consequentials. Tell me why a proportion of the money being spent on the regeneration of the Olympic area shouldn't come to Scotland.
Borrowing powers--why not? Every Council has them.
Accelerated spending on housing etc. I agree this is harder to justify and would actually have a better case for it under a Labour Govt.("this is not the time to reduce spending").

Three out of four is very reasonable in my opinion.

William Brown

Jess The Dog said...

Cuts are already underway.

Local authorities and quangos are shedding staff at a drastic rate, as they know what is coming in 2011budget allocation.

I would question the need to cut frontline services because of the large management 'tail' of the public sector. Cut up red tape and shed the backroom jobs.

I can't see any increase in council tax.

Sandy said...

Good points Jess, the SNP have successfully held off council tax cuts. I believe there are more than a few jobs that could be cut from local (and Scottish / National government ) without slashing front line services.

As for free prescriptions plan, it is hugely unpopular in England, but ho hey hum that is not really something to blame Holyrood for.

Matter of fact I have hayfever asthma and depression all of which requre monthly prescriptions - 5 items a month. I am being taxed for my illnesses. On a very modest income without the attitude of the SNP I would not be able to afford one of the the following heat, food or medicines. And that is without any treatment for other ilnesses that may crop up.

Sandy said...

Errrr rises not cuts in council tax are what the SNP has held off.

You know what I meant :)

subrosa said...

I've yet to see anything locally Jess or hear about cuts in quangos. I must contact folk I know who work in quangos although I have said some could do with a severe overhaul (the quangos, not the people I know who work for them).

subrosa said...

Sandy, before I came 60 I too had to have long-term medication which was costly. I used to buy a certificate for £42.50 which lasted for 4 months and that covered all my medication.

That was because I didn't receive benefits of any kind. If I had been in the receipt of benefits all would have been free.

To be honest, I think that was a reasonably fair compromise rather than giving everyone free prescriptions. Not only are we spending a lot with the policy, I just wonder how much medication is being wasted with people getting their script from the chemist (because they don't have to pay for it - or won't shortly) and then not using it.

A lose lose situation there. The last system was better.

Joe Public said...

SR 11:53

"Of course he'll blame England. They're the ones who won't share the spoils of the Olympics."

Just how much of that 3 x escalated initial budget do you Scots want to pay?

subrosa said...

Erm Joe, my comment was accompanied by :) which mean it was far more in jest than anything else.

Mrs Rigby said...

(Apologies for the earlier mistake, it was an 'in a hurry and careless' typo.)

About eye tests, in England they're free for adults with certain medical conditions and also if an immediate relative suffers/suffered from glaucoma. Many places don't make you pay the fee if you buy your glasses from them.

If you need to spend I think it's just over £100 a year in prescription charges there's a prepayment system, which caps the charges. Some medical conditions give free prescriptions, otherwise it's £7.20 for each item. Some prescriptions cost £14.40 because the pills/potions contain two items, HRT is an example. Some GPs will only give a 28 days supply of any medication, because it impacts on their practice costs.

Dentistry is another thing altogether!

w/v mugged!

subrosa said...

No apology necessary Mrs R. Love the WV.

That's how it used to be here, something like £120 a year for as many scripts required. Like you say some were charged double. I know because I've been a user of HRT for over 20 years.

But, is it sensible to give everyone free prescriptions? It's expensive enough giving us over 60s them and the needy and specified medical conditions. I'm not sure. Although I'm by no means wealthy, not even what would be classed as comfortably off these days, I never resented paying for my prescriptions. I felt it was the least I could do to assist the NHS.

Dentistry is another subject right enough. I could rant about that but I won't!

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