A MASS meeting of union members will be held next month to agree possible action against sweeping cuts at Southampton council as the authority tackles its worst ever financial crisis.
At least 100 jobs have already been earmarked for the axe, even before council leaders have finalised the raft of cuts and hikes in charges they need to make to plug a £26m budget gap.
As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, the city’s finance boss Councillor Simon Letts has warned there will be no good news or new initiatives and said the city was trapped in a “perfect storm” following Government funding cuts.
He yesterday postponed by a month the release of a draft budget saying more time was needed to consider the options, confirm potential savings and Government grants.
Union leaders, who have been shown a confidential dossier of possible cuts, said they had agreed it was the best way forward until the draft budget was completed.
Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “Once we know the final details of the jobs losses we will consult with members as to what action to take.
“Council staff didn’t cause this problem. The council is facing the greatest reduction in Government grant and the loss of jobs is a direct consequence.”
The meeting will come just weeks after union members agreed a pay restoration deal to end long-running industrial action over wage cuts brought in last July by the previous Conservative administration.
A special meeting of the council’s powerful overview and scrutiny committee has now been called after the budget delay.
Committee chairman Councillor Jeremy Moulton said it was clear Labour’s budget planning was in “total chaos and disarray”.
“The delay in the budget announcement is unprecedented and this emergency scrutiny meeting is essential so we can shine a light on the process and ensure that the leader of the council and his administration urgently get some sort of grip on things.”
Labour council leaders will meet on Sunday morning to thrash out further details of their budget to put to a meeting of the whole group later this month. They have privately admitted there is “much more work to do” and have accused Tories of a lack of financial planning over the past two years.
Meanwh i l e , union members from across Hampshire are planning to join a national demonstration against cuts to public services and jobs on October 20.
They will be joined by other trade unions, c o m m u n i t y groups and members of the public, who will all be taking to the streets of London to protest against Government spending cuts.
Tim Cutter, Hampshire UNISON branch secretary, said local communities were under threat by the “destruction of public services”.