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Labour is accused of "betraying" council staff
7:53am Monday 12th November 2012 in News
LABOUR is today accused of “betraying” council workers in Southampton as it unveils sweeping council cuts to jobs and services to tackle the city’s worst ever cash crisis.
Around 250 jobs are expected to be put at risk, the highest number in the history of the authority, when a draft budget is released later to plug a gaping budget hole.
Labour admitted there would be “significant staff reductions” but put the blame on the Government for imposing worse than expected funding cuts.
Staff will be given the grim news in a series of meetings this morning.
Union leaders have been shown a confidential copy of the budget and have been consulted on the cuts.
They will hold a mass meeting of members on Thursday to decide whether or not to take any industrial action.
Labour has already announced that 200 temporary workers at the council will lose their jobs in the coming years to free up potential roles for permanent staff facing redundancy.
Some long-serving temps will be offered full employment.
The spending plans will see swingeing cuts to the council’s adult care budget as wells as parks, open spaces and street cleaning.
It is expected that costs will be slashed across the city’s 14 Sure Start children’s centres and at least a dozen middle and senior managers in children’s services will be shown the door as part of a departmental shakeup.
Options under consideration also included a cull of 30 youth support workers with up to 11 centres offered to voluntary organisations to run.
City patrol officers and park wardens were also expected to be among the job casualties.
WEEKLY BIN COLLECTIONS UNDER THREAT
A failure to secure £8m from a Government recycling fund could see Labour axe weekly rubbish collections in the city with the loss of a dozen bin men jobs while charges could be brought in for green waste pick-ups.
PAY TO PARK OUTSIDE YOUIR HOME?
Residents could also be made to pay to park outside their own homes under a plan to charge £30 for first residents’ permits that a currently free.
Four years ago a joint Labour and Lib Dem administration approved the controversial policy to bring in charges for first residents’ permits during a twomonth spell in power, but it was overturned by Tories after the Daily Echo launched a campaign in support of outraged residents.
New evening charges for the city centre parking are also being planned to raise up to half a million a year while free parking at district centres could be scrapped and a 50p an hour charge brought in.
FEES COULD RISE?
Burial fees under review Elsewhere burial, cremation and rat catching fees are expected to go up by five per cent due to competition from the private sector.
Gypsies and travellers will also be charged more for water and electricity at the council’s Kanes Hill site.
OAP DISCOUNT COULD BE AXED AND COUNCIL TAX GOES UP?
A controversial ten per cent council tax discount for pensioners is also expected to be ditched while special constables may no longer receive a full council tax discount.
Labour is expected to reject a short-term Government offer of funding to help keep down council tax and put it up by two per cent, an average of almost £25 a year, to avoid a funding gap in future years.
An announcement of the budget plans was postponed last month to give council leaders a clearer picture of its finances and more time to prepare the cuts, hikes in charges and redundancies needed to plug a £26m deficit over the next financial year.
The budget gap is estimated to be £42m over the next two years.
Finance boss Councillor Simon Letts warned then that the council had already cut out the fat, paired the flesh down to the bone and was facing the prospect of “removing limbs”.
Tories said the Labour administration was in “chaos” and had no excuse for the “unprecedented” delay in letting staff know if they would be out of a job.
Conservative group leader Councillor Royston Smith said: “Labour promised staff there would no redundancies and they’ve betrayed hundreds who are going.
“And it’s betrayal to the public who they promised to deliver certain things and they’ve reneged on every single one of those commitments.”
Cllr Smith added: “We would have found alternative ways to fund the deficit, through outsourcing, continuing to share services and would not have restored pay (cuts) which was to protect 400 jobs.”
The restoration of pay cuts brought in last year by the Tories will add £650,000 to the council’s budget next year, rising to £2.2m when the full pay deal is implemented in two years.
Councillor Letts declined to discuss details of the budget ahead of meetings with staff today but last night said: “We have worked tirelessly to protect frontline services and drive out costs.
“By a process of negotiation we have achieved savings on the Capita (outsourcing) contract which this year will amount to close to four million pounds.
“We are a people-based organisation with many of our costs tied up in wages.
“It is with regret that the proposals today will mean significant staff reductions.
“The council will do all it can to find other opportunities for the affected staff.
We have a good record of keeping compulsory redundancies to a minimum and feel our new redeployment policy will help in this process.”
He added: “The Government needs to accept that reductions of this scale cannot continue without a profound and lasting impact on our society.”
Cllr Letts said the savings in the city from this year’s budget and the next amounted to £353 per household.
Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said all the jobs at risk were a “direct consequence” of Tory policies in Southampton and Westminster.
He blamed the previous Conservative administration for running down the reserves and going on a “massive spending spree” of capital projects, such as the £15m Sea City Museum, which has saddled the council with hefty interest payment.
He said unions would work with the council to avert compulsory redundancies and would campaign to protect jobs and services.
“Council workers should not pay for a crisis we did not cause,” he said.
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