Tagged: street cleaning

Newcastle City Council reveals £40m in further budget cuts for next year

Newcastle City Council it to slash its budget by £40m as a new set of cuts is drawn up to meet the Government’s deficit reduction plan.

The multi-million pound cuts will result in another round of staff redundancies, services being further cut and some mothballed.

The council is already in the middle of implementing a £38m cuts package for this year.

But council leader Nick Forbes and chief executive Pat Ritchie took the rare step of outlining the financial plans for 2015/16, which will have to be formally ratified in March next year.

Coun Forbes said: “Normally we wouldn’t get into budget conversation until much later but we’re doing a lot of early thinking because of the scale of the challenge we are facing.

“We want to have an honest conversation with people in the city about the impact of austerity cuts and what they mean for the services they enjoy and have come to rely on.”

Coun Forbes and Ms Ritchie would not specifically identify how many jobs would go and which services were under direct threat, with firm plans not likely to be announced until the autumn, after consultation with staff and council partners on how best to proceed.

But in a grim warning of what was to come, Coun Forbes said that so far the council has only achieved 40% of the budget savings required by the Government.

“The level of cuts are so severe that there are no areas we’re not looking at and trying to find alternative ways of funding,” he said. “The pace and scale is so great the council will have to do less in the future.”

He added: “The challenge is the council has statutory obligations and can’t simply stop, for example, looking after children at risk of sex or violent abuse or caring for old people in their own homes. We have a legal obligation to fund concessionary travel so our strategy is partly to work with other partners to reduce cost pressures.”

While not giving specifics, Coun Forbes hinted at some areas that were in the spotlight, saying: “If we don’t have an indication of a change of heart by later this year, many services aimed at supporting children and families as well as the help that keeps older people out of hospital are likely to be at risk.”

Street cleaning and environmental services are another area under the microscope, and the council leader said: “Unless we can change the behaviour of the minority of people who drop litter, fly tip and allow dogs to foul pavements, the council won’t have the resources to clean this up in the future. There is no doubt our city will get dirtier as a result.”

Coun Forbes added: “We will be straining every sinew to protect job numbers but there will inevitably be some redundancies. We will endeavour for them to be voluntary but we have no figures in mind yet. We will mothball some services with the intention of growing them again in future years. Austerity will pass. There is a growing clamour from local government to the present government for change.

“We hold onto the hope a future Government would take a different approach. But the next two or three years are going to be extremely tough for every council.”

Coun Forbes said there won’t be the repeat of two years ago when the council talked of a 100% cuts in arts funding then made a U-turn to 50% and set up a culture investment fund.

Coun Forbes said: “It was controversial at the time, in the long term it will be seen as the step which protected arts from continued cuts.”

But he said that if the scale of cuts continues, there are projections that by 2018 the council will not be able to fulfil its legal obligations in funding services and that it would become “unviable”.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  17 June 2014

South Tyneside – Frontline council jobs to be axed as cuts bite deeper

More than 30 frontline South Tyneside Council jobs are to be shed in a new bid to streamline services.

 The council needs to cut 33 posts in the areas of housing services, community safety and street cleaning – reducing staff from 150 to 117.

It is hoped the majority of jobs will go through voluntary redundancies, redeployment and early retirement.

The plan is to establish a new streamlined housing and area management team to be overseen by South Tyneside Homes.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said the new approach was part of a bid to “deliver frontline services in the most efficient way possible”.

But Merv Butler, branch secretary with Unison South Tyneside – which is now in consultation over the changes – described them as “worrying”.

One employee affected by the switch said frontline services would “inevitably” be cut as a result.

Among the posts threatened are housing officers on various grades, tenant enforcement officers and community wardens and street cleaning managers, supervisors and workers.

Coun Malcolm said: “In the face of unprecedented financial challenges, we have to continue to look at ways of delivering frontline services in the most efficient way possible, without compromising on quality.

“We’ve identified a range of housing, community safety and area management functions across South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes that would benefit from being integrated through one single organisation.

“The integration of street cleaning and estate maintenance functions will build on the highly successful Handy Estates pilot that has been in operation across the council and South Tyneside Homes since April 2013, and has received very positive feedback.

“We are confident that this new model will deliver an improved public service by concentrating our resources where there is a proven track record of expertise.”

He added: “We are very conscious that changes of this nature can be unsettling for the staff involved.

“We are doing all we can to minimise uncertainty and have already held a series of briefing sessions with affected members of staff and trade unions representatives.

“Consultation, including one-to-one sessions with affected staff, will be ongoing. While this review will result in an overall reduction in the number of posts, we will ensure that this impacts on staff as little as possible, through management of redeployment opportunities, early retirements and voluntary redundancy.”

Mr Butler said: “The public need to understand the implications of this, particularly in the area of community safety as it could see a reduction in the number of community wardens.

“It is very worrying. The council does have difficult decisions to make but we want to see frontline services protected and our members jobs maintained.

“They see this as the best way of doing this is by creating this new structure. We just hope they are right.”

Although pay protection is in place, one employee, a multi-skilled operative, told the Gazette he believes his salary would be reduced from £19,000 to £14,000 a year under the proposals.

He said: “I just couldn’t exist on that and would to have leave the authority.

“I’m already looking for a new job.

“It’s particularly upsetting because these are workers on the frontline who are dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis, not faceless back office staff

“Those frontline services will inevitably be reduced as a result.

“We feel we have been unfairly selected.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  12 June 2014

Local government UK councils benefit from half a million hours of unpaid labour

Scores of UK councils have benefited from more than half a million hours of unpaid labour through government back-to-work schemes, a series of freedom of information requests has found.

The FOI requests filed by the group Boycott Workfare, which campaigns against workfare schemes, found 62% of the 271 councils that responded had used unpaid workers on government schemes during the past two years.

Boycott Workfare, which says unpaid schemes such as work experience and mandatory work activity (MWA) exploit tens of thousands of unemployed people, found Newport council had used 112 people, mainly in its street cleaning and rubbish collection department for about four weeks at a time.

Scarborough council has used 120 people through the MWA scheme since 2011. Seventy one people completed the placements, all in the parks department.

Bexley borough council in London has taken more than 100 unpaid placements, including 71 through the mayor of London’s unpaid work scheme, which is funded by the European social fund. One person was offered full-time employment (!)  and 15 an apprenticeship.

The council said most of these placements were in library services, where 35 paid jobs were lost after services were merged with neighbouring Bromley in 2012.

Of the reported 1,929 placements, only one in 14 led to jobs according to Boycott Workfare, though this figure did not include apprenticeship placements.

Northumberland county council said it had put 44 people into unpaid work in its council services during the past two years.

“These work placements are intended to be positive experiences, not punitive and must be of community value and not replace anyone’s job,” the council said.

Boycott Workfare said half of council placements were part of the voluntary work experience scheme. But nearly 300 placements were on MWA, where the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can compel people to work without pay for a month or have their benefit cut for up to three years.

A further 300 people were sent to work for councils through the Work Programme, with placements lasting up to 26 weeks.

Since February 2012 the DWP has resisted a series of rulings from the information commissioner that it should make public the locations of people sent on government employment schemes, saying the data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation. A high court hearing on the matter is expected to take place in the spring.

“data was commercially sensitive and a public outcry could damage the schemes’ operation.” But aren’t we always being told that if we’ve done nothing wrong we have nothing to fear ?  What are they scared of ?

Boycott Workfare said it was “disturbing to find so many councils putting local people at risk of destitution by using schemes that threaten people with up to three years’ benefit stoppages.

“Workfare doesn’t help people find work and councils aren’t offering people jobs at the end of their placement. Instead local authorities are clearly using workfare in an attempt to plug the gaps left by government cuts to public services.”

The group said a six-month employment scheme due to start this year would extend this trend of unpaid work in councils and charities.

“Unless it is stopped, it will mean both more devastating welfare sanctions and fewer paid jobs for everyone,” it said.

The DWP said: “Most of these placements are undertaken voluntarily and work experience is successful in helping people off benefits and into work.

“Mandatory placements give jobseekers in need of more help the vital workplace skills and experience – especially if they’ve never worked before – to find work.”

“Claimants are expected to complete placements which are of benefit to the community, including helping charities. It is only right that people claiming jobseeker’s allowance take part in programmes to improve their skills.”

> Fine – then if it’s work at least pay them the minimum wage. Even New Labour’s New Deal fiasco used to pay you 15 quid a week extra.

Forcing people to work for nothing under threat of sanctions for not complying = slavery.

And talking of Labour, New or present, I dont hear any protests coming from that direction. Of course, it seems most likely that they, should they win the next election, will just continue along the same course as the present government – in the same way that the Tories are using measures brought in by New Labour, like sanctions, to such devastating effect.

Different arseholes, same old shit.

Source – Guardian, 03 Jan 2014