This letter was published in today's Weston Mercury:
I am writing on behalf of North Somerset UNISON, which represents workers at North Somerset Council regarding the £50 million of cuts which the council intend to make up until March 2015. The residents of North Somerset should be very worried by proposals put forward by the council which will see massive cuts to services to the elderly, people with disabilities, children and young people. In Adult Social Services the cuts include a £1 million cut to care for people with learning disabilities, another £1 million cut to care for the elderly and disabled, a £1.2 million cut to the council’s budget for care home provision, and a £4 million cut which the council propose to make as they attempt to help more elderly and disabled people to live independently so they can save more money on care home placements. The council will also cut its support to services for domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and drugs and alcohol. In total Adult Social Services are proposing to make cuts of £14 million, which amounts to about a quarter of their budget. If anyone thinks that it is possible to cut such large amounts of money without it impacting on services then they are not living in the real world.
In Children’s and Young People’s Services the council is proposing to concentrate its resources on the 300 families in North Somerset who will be assessed as needing the most support – other families will barely get a look in. As a result there will be no early intervention and preventative work done with other families, which will simply store up problems for the future, add to the crisis in children’s services and cost the council more money in the long term. Our youth service will cease to exist with an almost £1 million cut, which will see 60 youth workers lose their jobs, and will also close down youth clubs, unless town and parish councils are willing to take them on. The council also intends to spend £2 million less on placements for looked after children. In total Children and Young People’s Services are being asked to make cuts of £12 million, which amounts to one third of their budget.
In both Adult and Children’s services there is a proposed reduction in the number of already over worked social workers. North Somerset Council, like many other local authorities, finds it difficult to recruit and retain experienced social workers. This situation is likely to worsen as reduced staff numbers will increase workloads for those that remain. In addition the council intends to make a £1 million cut to services provided by the voluntary sector to adults, children and young people. The council is also proposing to make cuts to staff and services in housing, highways, planning and grounds maintenance. And it looks likely that many of our rural libraries will close unless members of the community are prepared to volunteer to run them. In all 280 full time jobs will go, but because many council jobs are part-time this is likely to affect between 400 and 500 people. In effect the council will lose a quarter of its workforce, and this at a time when Weston super Mare has seen the 14th biggest rise in unemployment in the country.
It is now time for the people of North Somerset to stand up and join the trade unions to defend public services, because if we don’t fight these cuts then the outlook for every single one of us is bleak. The welfare state which was created to provide support and protection to our most vulnerable citizens and look after every one of us from cradle to grave will have been dismantled by 2015, if not sooner. There will be no safety net if you or a member of your family becomes sick or disabled, or loses their job. Your children’s education will suffer. If they want to go to university they will face huge debts, and there will be no decent jobs for them anyway. There will be no one to protect our most vulnerable children and young people. There will be no youth clubs to keep children off the streets. There will be no libraries or leisure facilities for you to spend your free time in. When you and your family get older you will find yourselves being forced to work longer than you’re physically able, when you do get to collect your pension you will be living well below the poverty line, and there will be no one to care for you in your old age. The people of North Somerset must act now before it’s too late. I urge you to write, phone or go to see your councillor. You can also request to speak at the Special Budget Council meeting on 15th November at 6 pm. We will be lobbying the meeting from 5.30 pm outside the town hall, along with members of the campaign to save Portishead Youth Club, and we urge the residents of North Somerset to join us.