Council redundancies will have a serious knock-on effect on the local economy – not only for the individuals and families directly affected and for public services, but on others working in the wider community.
The Labour MSPs for the Highlands and Islands, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, have been researching what job losses could mean for other business and services in local communities.
For every 100 jobs going on the council, another 50 could be affected out with the local authority.
On the Western Isles, it is estimated 84 jobs will go; Argyll and Bute, 82 and just under 10 on Orkney.
It has already been announced that at Highland Council, the largest and worst hit local authority in the Highlands and Islands, up to 400 will be made redundant.
Although Moray Council has managed to stave off job losses this year, 14 long-term vacancies will not be filled and many councillors fear major job losses will come in years to come.
Shetland Islands Council has no job losses but has warned there will be further significant cash reductions in the general revenue grant from the Scottish Government over the forthcoming years.
Scottish Labour would set a Scottish rate of Income Tax 1p higher than that set by the SNP Government. This would mean the SNP’s planned cuts to schools and other public services could be avoided.
Mrs Grant pointed out that the SNP Government’s Council Tax freeze had tied the hands of local authorities across the region, threating councils with severe sanctions if they broke the freeze to save cuts to local services.
“Many people may believe that it is the ‘fat’ that is being shaved from Highland Council and other local authorities, but services have already been thinned, leaving burgeoning workloads for those that are left, a loss of expertise and reduced staff morale,” she said.
She said the scale of job losses will affect local businesses, from retail to service providers, as well as filtering through to front-line services such as education, social work and cleaning. It has been estimated that 30 per cent of jobs in the Highlands and Islands are in the public sector.
“Scottish Labour would set the Scottish rate of income tax 1 penny higher than George Osborne and stop the cuts that will cost hundreds of jobs and undermine our children’s future. This would mean the SNP’s planned cuts to schools and other public services could be avoided."
Mr Stewart said when jobs were lost, there was normally a ‘multiplier effect’ on other jobs out with the local authority. For every 100 jobs going, another 50 could be affected.
“In the case of Highland Council that’s up to 200 jobs out with the local authority affected. And, that’s not taking into consideration how cuts will affect charities and other voluntary organisations in the region,” he said.
“The alarm bells are loudly ringing across the region in one of the most difficult times for local authorities.
“Whereas local authorities might have said they was coping in the past that resilience is coming under increasing strain and cracks are beginning to show. And, it won’t only be the council which will feel the cold wind. It will be other businesses and their staff who rely on the council and the money that it puts into workers’ pockets.”
Highland Council’s Labour leader, ex-Inverness Provost Jimmy Gray, added: “As well as those direct job losses, the indirect ones will be considerable. It has been the worst settlement for local government since the Scottish Parliament came into being. The effect of those cuts will be that our streets will be dirtier, our schools will be dirtier and our parks dirtier. Education for our young people will also be hit. To sum up, it will be dirtier and dearer for those in the local community."
COSLA estimates that there could be 15,000 local authority job losses throughout the country due to proposals in the 2016/2017 local government settlement. It is estimated that 8,351 jobs have been earmarked already.