Scottish budget: Extra funds for colleges and housing

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By a Newsnet reporter

Transport, housing, health and digital projects will receive new investment to help boost the economy, Finance Secretary John Swinney told Parliament when setting out the Scottish budget, which included additional funding for colleges and Scottish students.

Paying particular attention to education, Mr Swinney says he has listened carefully to the opposition parties in formulating his budget for 2012-13 and that the SNP had “acted decisively in the interest of our economy, our public services and the people of Scotland”.

Education:
With the budget finances being planned, opposition politicians and other concerned parties had urged the Finance Secretary to find extra money for areas such as colleges and housing.

In his budget, Mr Swinney has allocated an additional £19.5 million for Scotland’s young people, through maintaining top-up funding for student support provided in 2011-12 and providing an additional £8 million next year to the Scottish Funding Council to help colleges play their part in delivering Opportunities for All commitments.

The Finance Secretary said that, combined with the £20 million of new investment already announced for colleges, showed the Government’s determined commitment to the sector.

Mr Swinney said: “That is £40 million of addition investment which should leave no one in a shadow of doubt about the strength of this administration’s commitment to our colleges and to Scotland’s students.”

Housing:
Mr Swinney has also budgeted more cash for Scottish government funded housing, revealing housing would get an extra £97 million over four years.

Mr Swinney said: “Most of this will go directly into our programme for subsidising new supply, increasing the number of homes we can deliver and ensuring that we can meet needs right across the country.”

Communications:
Finance Secretary John Swinney also announced there would also be more money for transport roads projects and to help provide world-class broadband services across the country through digital Infrastructure projects.

Economic growth:
Additional capital spending of £382 million for 2012 -2015, supporting around 5,000 jobs, has been allocated to support Scotland’s economic growth.

– Local Government: £94 million – including £40 million to support digital in rural areas
– Affordable housing : £45 million
– Housing loans and equity: £42 million
– NHS capital maintenance: £60 million
– Digital Infrastructure: £28.3 million
– Roads projects: £72 million
– Sustainable and active travel: £13 million
– Modernisation of the prison estate: £20 million
– Culture projects and maintenance £5 million
– Asset Management: SFT to assist with disposals: £3 million

Mr Swinney called it a “budget for growth that puts the interests of our economy, our public services and the people of Scotland first” and added:

“This is a Budget that boosts public sector capital investment, takes direct action to tackle unemployment, in particular youth unemployment and enhances economic security across the Scottish economy.

“Capital investment is central to our approach, with every additional 100 million pounds of capital spending supporting around 1,400 jobs in the Scottish economy.  We are expanding our infrastructure programme through the 2.5 billion pound NPD pipeline, by switching resource to capital spending and through a range of innovative financial mechanisms.

“As a result, by 2014-15 our overall capital investment in Scotland’s economy will be 25 per cent higher than in this year – set against the back drop of a 32 per cent cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget and a 9 per cent cut to our resource budget by the UK Government over four years.”

Commenting on the budget, Scottish Building Federation Chief Executive Michael Levack said:

“Given the apparent limited room for manoeuvre, the construction sector will welcome Mr. Swinney’s announcement today that he will commit additional public funding in the coming financial year to support housebuilding, roads and transport, and college infrastructure.

“When times are as tough as this, it’s more crucial than ever that public investment delivers maximum added value.  Just as important as today’s budget announcement is promised legislation to streamline public procurement and ensure the tendering system starts delivering for Scottish businesses of all sizes.  The sooner that legislation is in place, the sooner we can ensure today’s budget becomes the budget for growth the Scottish Government wants it to be.”

Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman Ken Macintosh MSP said that the budget “did not go far enough” and added:

“Despite today’s last minute announcement, the SNP government is still choosing to make huge cuts to housing, our colleges and the services people depend on locally.

“It is simply not good enough to cut the budget by £40m this year rising to £74m in two years’ time – then to give back £19m and expect a round of applause.

“John Swinney talks of a budget for jobs and growth but there is no sign in this budget of a government grabbing the economy by the scruff of the neck – no sign of the dynamism needed to galvanise the economy, no sign even of a government taking all possible steps to protect jobs and create employment.”

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said: “I really wonder about John Swinney’s constructive discussions with retailers that led to this levy being cut to three years.  What was the economic rationale for that?

“Why is it being cut by £15m? There are obviously serious concerns there.”