Budget Announcements

Finance Secretary John Swinney must have the hardest job in the Scottish Government. At a time when Westminster has reduced Scotland’s capital funding by 30%, he has the near-impossible task of balancing the books. Yet, since taking up his post in 2007, he has made the right choices when faced with unenviable decisions between competing budget priorities.

On 20th September, he announced the Draft Budget 2013-14. Key points include the announcement that the Council Tax will remain frozen. This is only fair, since the freeze implemented in 2007 has yet to make up for huge increases under previous Labour/LibDem administrations at Holyrood.

Domestic Scottish Water charges will rise slightly, after a four-year freeze, but this will feed back into service improvements from this not-for-profit public organisation.

Good progress continues on the new Forth Road Bridge, which means the Scottish Government will now save a budgeted risk contingency of £20 million this year alone. The project, so far excellently managed, is on track for target completion by 2016.

A further £40 million for affordable house-building will be released this Autumn and in 2013-14.  Within and around Dunfermline, we will continue to benefit from housing projects supported by the Scottish Government.

Mr Swinney also announced projects in education, NHS training and roads.

Difficult years remain ahead, though the Government sector pay freeze will relax next year, with a basic increase of 1% budgeted for most employees. Not much, but a step in the right direction with many living costs continuing to rise.

The above was originally written for Bill’s Dunfermline Press column. This version may vary slightly.

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