A council leader has been accused of reneging on his promise to not ‘salami-slice’ authority jobs.
Unison have said Newcastle City Council’s draft budget plans which will shred 260 jobs across a range of departments, from highways to adminstration staff to family service workers, fails to come up with a new model for how the authority will be run.
Council leader Nick Forbes has previously said annual ‘salami-slicing’ of budgets, where a handful of jobs are taken from a range of departments, is ‘no longer adequate’ when faced with large cuts from Central Government. The key to future services is instead, he argued, to transform the status quo.
However Paul Gilroy, Newcastle branch member for Unison, said:
“The council talked two years ago about how Newcastle would look in 2020 and they talked about transforming the city council. They have done only elements of that. The Family Services Review has transformed what’s delivered to families but in other parts of the authority there isn’t a significant amount of evidence of transforming services.
“There still is an element of ‘salami-slicing’ and people are bothered by it. An example is the decision to shut the Tourist Information Centre. In 2012 the council talked about transformational change but we are struggling with what that means.”
Details of Newcastle City Council’s Family Services Review, which includes changes to the Sure Start service, will be released in January.
Up to 27 jobs will go when the council embarks on creating new ‘community family hubs’ across the city after having its budget cut by £5m.
Leader of the council Nick Forbes, who works at a national level to come up with ideas on how to change public services within the Core Cities organisation, believes significant changes are being made.
“Our budget demonstrates a transformational approach to public services and we know that we need to go further in years ahead. But it is the Government that is holding back true transformation through its unceasing and savage cuts to public services.”
He said there were many examples of transformational proposals for services in the council’s draft budget for 2015-2016 and the authority has already been financially rewarded for its innovation in its social services department.
Councils are awarded financial grants from Central Government if they demonstrate ways in which they have tackled delivering public services differently and in the past Newcastle has received a grant for its work redesigning family mental health services.
Councillor Forbes, said:
“We have also worked with our partners to save many of our libraries from closures and have set up a fund independent of council that guarantees funding for the arts.
“We are also looking at setting up a trust to manage many of our parks and heritage assets.”
“In the future we are looking to save money through digital transformation by making many of our services available digitally, and we are looking to integrate our health and social care services.”
He said ‘true transformation’ of services requires a fundamental change from the current top-down ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach and more upfront funding for local innovation, which is what Newcastle City Council is lobbying for.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Dec 2014
Hundreds of city workers face a black Christmas as the scale of £40m council cuts is announced on December 23.
Newcastle City Council’s will release the finer details of their budget reduction plans and the number of potential job losses just two days before Christmas Day.
The December announcement is expected to include firm figures on where the axe will fall on certain council departments and how future Sure Start services will be run.
Paul Gilroy, Newcastle branch secretary for Unison, said the timing before Christmas was unavoidable due to the budget setting time-table but given the looming holiday period more details should be passed onto workers beforehand as a priority.
“I’m hoping that before December 23 the majority of that detail is shared. The council report will have details of the savings and number of jobs to be cut.
“You won’t be able to see that it’s your job that could be cut, but you will be able to see that your area might need to save ‘X’ amount of money, and that so many jobs are under review.
“The problem at the moment is the size of the cut and I’m not sure there’s any particular area of the council that won’t see cutbacks.
“It’s not going to be positive time of year for anybody. Christmas is usually the time of year when you overspend. It’s a time of year when you should be letting your hair down and instead it’s the time of year when you might be worrying about potentially not having a job in the future.”
Newcastle City Council needs to cut £40m from its budget for 2015/16 following a reduction in its Central Government revenue support grant and rising cost pressures.
In October they released rough plans on the areas they would like to make savings from, including city parks, road sweeping, the number of public bins and reducing the night-time nuisance noise service.
Unions are prepared for an announcement that up to 400 jobs will be at risk, on top of the 1300 posts due to be scrapped by 2016.
Val Scott, regional organiser for the GMB, whose 3500 city council members include catering staff and care workers, said there was never a good time of year to make an announcement on job losses and the pain of entering into a potential consultation period was felt as acutely in summer as in winter.
“With public services this is an ongoing thing and there’s never a good time for this announcement to be made.
“Budgets are really stretched by the Government at this moment in time and people are losing their jobs left, right and centre and unfortunately public services are having to deal with a disproportionate cut to the North East.
“The budget cuts are common knowledge but this is getting down to the nitty gritty and identifying job losses, which makes it extremely difficult.”
She said council proposals to transfer the running of some city parks over to civic trusts, to avoid an annual £1.1m maintenance bill, did not ‘sit well’ with the union.
“These proposals are up for discussion and we will try everything that we can to object to that as it is not something that we advocate.
“There’s volunteer services which are crucial. In terms of doing a volunteer job where it’s been a previous council job then I’m not satisfied with that position,” she said.
On December 23 draft budget plans will be prepared for the city’s cabinet with the formal consultation period starting after a full city council meeting in January.
The final budget will be set in April.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Nov 2014