Sunday, 15 January 2012

UNISON demonstration at North Somerset Council meeting - 17th January

Members of North Somerset UNISON will be lobbying and speaking at North Somerset Council’s meeting on 17th January, where councillors will discuss their budget proprosals for 2012 to 2015. The Council intend to make cuts of £50 million between 2011 and 2015, with £17.5 million of cuts already approved and underway.

We have serious concerns about the council’s ability to deliver services to some of the most vulnerable people in North Somerset, if further cuts are approved. We are particularly worried by the proposal of a massive £14 million cut from services provided to elderly and disabled people, amounting to a quarter of the budget for Adult Social Services. Last year North Somerset Council came out 7th from bottom out of 152 local authorities in a survey commissioned by the disability charity Scope, which assessed the impact of local authority cuts to services for disabled children and adults. Further cuts will make these statistics even worse. The council’s budget also contains proposals to cut the services provided to people suffering domestic abuse, services to prevent anti-social behaviour, reoffending, and homelessness – all of which will have huge impacts for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

In Children and Young People’s Services the council are proposing another massive cut of £12 million, which is a third of the budget for children and young people. The cuts, already underway, involve focusing on the 300 families in North Somerset who will be assessed as needing the most support – other families will barely get a look in. There will also be a reduction in numbers of already over-worked social workers and social work managers. This is a very high risk strategy, but it is also a false economy, as there will be little early intervention and preventative work done, which will simply cost the council more in the long run. In addition North Somerset Youth Services will cease to exist. 60 part-time youth workers will lose their jobs, and youth clubs will close, unless other organisations are willing to take them on. Even if town and parish councils take over running youth clubs the limited funding available means that these services will not be sustainable into the future.

As a trade union we are of course also concerned by the loss of 280 full-time posts, equating to about 400 to 500 people who will lose, and are already losing, their livelihoods. This will not only impact on the council’s ability to deliver services, but will also have a serious economic impact – indeed the impact of public sector job cuts is already taking its toll, with Weston super Mare seeing the 14th largest increase in unemployment in the country. Council workers are also on a 3 year pay freeze, and the council’s budget contains proposals to cut the pay of some of its lowest paid workers. Public sector job losses and pay cuts also have knock on effects in the private sector, as public sector workers no longer have income to spend in the local economy, and businesses suffer as a result. All you have to do is walk around Weston town centre to see the amount of shops, which are now lying empty. A 25% reduction to the workforce of the council, which is still the district’s largest local employer, will have further serious implications for the local economy, and this is made even worse by the impact of cuts in other public sector bodies in North Somerset, such as the NHS and police force.

We will be lobbying the council meeting at the town hall from 5.30 pm on 17th January, where we’ll be joined by young people from Youth Clubs throughout North Somerset. We urge anyone in North Somerset who will be affected by the cuts to come to the meeting and make their feelings known to the council. The council don’t set their budget until 21st February so there is still some time. We need to persuade North Somerset Council that there are choices to be made, and there are things that they can do to lessen the impact of the cuts.

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