Tagged: Unison

Stockton : NHS jobs given to private sector

A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.

The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.

But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.

In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.

But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.

More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.

It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition

 Mike Hill, regional organiser for Unison, said:
“Unison is concerned as to how and why these hard working healthcare professionals have been left high and dry by a procurement process which led to their own NHS trust being unsuccessful in tendering for work it already carries out.

“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “

Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:

“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”

 “We have a duty to choose the tender that offers the best quality of service and value for money. We have re-commissioned the North Tees and Hartlepool Trust to deliver the majority of public health services, but were very disappointed with the trust’s tender to deliver our new look children and family weight management service.”

Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015

Advertisements

Unions slam ‘disgusting’ pay rises for South Tyneside health bosses

Pay hikes for senior hospital bosses in South Tyneside have been branded “shocking and disgusting” by health union leaders.

Salaries for six executives at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust rose by at least £5,000 in the space of a year – between 2012/13 and last year, a shared cash boost of £50,000.

Trevor Johnston, who is head of health for the North East region for health union Unison, called for hospital bosses to limit their pay rises to the same one per cent increase being received by frontline NHS staff this year.

The trust says management pay increases were introduced because of a large increase in workload when community services in Gateshead and Sunderland became part of its remit.

 Trust chief executive Lorraine Lambert saw her salary increase by 19 per cent – from between £160,000 and £165,000 to £185,000 to £190,000.

Mike Robson, executive director of finance and corporate governance, saw his salary swell from between £115,000 and £120,000 to £120,000 to £125,000

Chief operating officer Helen Ray left her post in March last year but saw her final salary rise from between £105,000 to £110,000 to £115,000.

Fellow senior executives Steve Jamieson and Elaine Criddle enjoyed £5,000 pay boosts over the same period.

Trevor Johnston said:

“It is absolutely shocking and disgusting. These people have their own remuneration committee and award themselves big pay rises when frontline staff get very little.

“What conscience do they have when frontline staff got a one per cent rise for the coming year? Executives should be taking a one per cent rise as well.

“It is the frontline staff that are delivering services to patients.”

Health workers had planned to strike in January after the Government initially rejected a one per cent pay rise proposal by the NHS pay review body for England but the protest was called off to allow fresh negotiations to take place.

Glenn Turp, northern regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, says pay increases for health staff such as nurses and midwives is failing to keep up with those given to hospital management.

Mr Turp said:

“Our research showed that the amount spent on executive directors had increased by an average of six per cent, compared to a 1.6 per cent rise in earnings for nurses, midwives and health visitors.

“Nurses are continuing to feel the effects of austerity and the impact of the Government’s decision not to award them a pay increase for the last five years. Now is the time for more fairness and better pay for all NHS staff.”

Ian Frame, the trusts’s executive director of personnel and development, said:

“In July 2011, our Trust incorporated the community services from Sunderland and Gateshead into our organisation and, in doing so, doubled the size of the workforce, the operational turnover and the complexity of services provided.

“During 2012 we commissioned an external independent remuneration company, to compare the salary scales of managers who have Trust-wide responsibilities, with managers in other Trusts of comparable size and complexity. The outcome was that the existing salary scales were significantly less than our comparators.

“A revised salary scale was approved by the Trust`s Remuneration Committee (comprising Non-Executive Directors only), which accounts for the increases published in the Annual Reports, though the committee opted to phase the increases over a four year period, in order to reduce the immediatel financial impact.

“Executive director annual inflationary salary increases are directly linked to the national NHS pay awards, so they receive exactly the same inflationary increase as all other staff. Had the organisation not doubled in size and complexity, then the published increases would not have happened.

“Irrespective of the increases, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust chief executive and executive directors’ salaries are amongst the lowest in the North East.”

Outgoing Hospital boss Lorraine Lambert enjoyed a £25,000 pay boost in just one year – as “compensation” for withdrawing from an NHS pension scheme.

South Tyneside Hospital Foundation Trust says she had not been given a basic salary increase or bonus payment, but had received a lump sum payment after withdrawing from the NHS pension scheme.

A trust spokeswoman confirmed:

“As stated in our annual report, it was agreed that she should receive a compensatory sum equivalent to the employers’ pension contributions no longer payable due to her withdrawal from the pension scheme.

“We can confirm that this compensatory sum, which is taxable, is the sole reason for the total remuneration shifting into the higher banding and there was no additional cost to the trust.”

Mrs Lambert will retire from her role as chief executive of the trust in September.

Mrs Lambert has spent 20 years at South Tyneside District Hospital, in South Shields, with the last 18 in her current position.

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Mar 2015

Northumberland home staff could take industrial action over pay cut

> Another example of what happens when NHS services are privatised…

Staff in homes for people with learning and physical disabilities in Northumberland could take strike action over what they describe as a “savage cut” to their terms and conditions.

The majority of 36 workers in five homes run by Lifeways are being balloted amid claims their pay is to be slashed by £2.30 an hour to £7.65 – below the National Living Wage.

They also say the company is cutting paid sickness leave to five days per year, reducing its contribution to workers’ pensions from 14% to 4% and removing death in service benefits.

The workers are based at three homes in Bedlington and two in Choppington and are represented by the union Unison.

It claims staff who transferred to Lifeways from the NHS are seeing their maternity provision replaced by the statutory minimum and that holiday entitlement has been reduced by seven days.

Unison spokesman Trevor Johnston said:

“They are faced with losing between a third and half of their income and a savage cut to their other terms and conditions of employment.

“The staff are very concerned about their financial security. They are very committed to caring for the residents and appreciate that disruption is unsettling for them. However, they feel that they are faced with no alternative.

“Unison has offered to undertake meaningful negotiations with the employer, especially as Lifeways made a profit last year of £14m.

“Other not-for-profit organisations faced with similar cuts have offered their staff buy out arrangements while continuing to pay the Living Wage.”

The company has blamed a 30% cut in the money it is given to run the homes by Northumberland County Council.

A Lifeways spokesperson said:

“We recognise the impact that any changes to terms and conditions will have on our staff and we are holding talks with Unison in order to avoid industrial action.

“Our service users remain our number one priority and we will maintain a high level of care at all times.

“However, like all other providers of adult social care, we are having to reduce our costs as a result of local authority budget cuts.

“Despite a 30% reduction in fees, we are required to deliver the same level of service as currently.

“The fee decrease is being absorbed in part through a reduction in our operating costs, mostly through the proposed changes in employment terms and conditions, but also in part by Lifeways directly.”

The services now run by Lifeways were operated by the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust as residential care homes until 2012.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson:

“The trust made a decision a number of years ago that they no longer felt it appropriate for them to continue providing this kind of social care service, and consulted their staff in relation to this.

“The county council, which was the funder of the services, therefore advertised in 2012 for a new provider to take over the services and work towards supporting the service users in a less institutional way, changing the services from residential homes to a ‘supported living’ scheme, in which service users would become tenants with enhanced rights and greater independence.

“The contract offered in the original tender is the contract that was agreed would operate from April 1.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 Mar 2015

TUSC announces Darlington parliamentary candidate

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has announced its candidate to to fight the Darlington parliamentary seat in the General Election will be Alan Docherty.

Mr Docherty, a trade union member and environmental activist, who has lived and worked in Darlington for more than 40 years on the railways and at Darlington Borough Council, said he knows the town and the issues it is facing well.

He is the former branch secretary of the Darlington local government branch of Unison, is the co-ordinator of Darlington Trades Union Council’s Darlington Against Cuts group and secretary of the Teesside Socialist Party.

Mr Docherty regularly campaigns in the town and across Teesside for trade union, anti cuts and environmental groups.

The TUSC’s policies include bringing the railways, buses, utilities and the postal service back into public ownership; no cuts to public services; investment in green energy; nationalising the banks and stopping tax avoidance.

Mr Docherty said:

“We consider that the Labour Party no longer represents the interest of ordinary people.

“It is publicly committed to economic policies, similar to those of the Lib Dems, Conservatives and UKIP, that will continue to reduce people’s living standards and cut public services.

“It is our aim to reverse the false message that austerity and cuts are the only way to rebuild the economy. We can and will change the face of politics in Britain too’.

The TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, former Rail and Maritime Trade Union (RMT) leader, to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand anti-austerity candidates against the pro-austerity establishment parties.

 TUSC will also stand candidates in the local elections in Darlington.
Source –  Northern Echo,  24 Feb 2015

Rally against council cuts in Gateshead to take place on Saturday

Library users, keen swimmers and pensioners will unite to take part in a rally through Gateshead town centre on Saturday.

The demonstration against Gateshead Council’s budget cuts will bring dozens of protestors together, as well as three MPs, who will speak out on Central Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.

Those affected by proposed library and swimming pool closures, and cut backs of hours at Gateshead facilities, will meet with people who use the borough’s older people’s and mental health services.

Gateshead Council’s leader Mick Henry must make up to £46m worth of savings over the next two years and proposals include reviewing how they run the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre.

Other cut backs – including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time – could lead to job losses.

Together service users will march from the Gateshead Interchange towards the Civic Centre at 2.15pm on Saturday (07 Feb), in a protest organised by the Gateshead Public Services Alliance which is part of the union Unison.

Speeches will be heard from Labour politicians, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon, Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow and Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead.

Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said: “We have people coming on behalf of the libraries, and older people’s services in Gateshead which are all under threat with closure of the scaling back of hours.

“We know that the council have to make cuts because the Government is reducing their budget.

“The council has to decide how these cuts are going to be implemented and we are trying to show that they are not just dealing with statistics.

“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals.

“It is Central Government who are cutting the council finances and we do understand the difficulty the council is facing but they need to make the decision in the face of people’s actual experiences and needs.”

Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said:

“Setting our Budget is a fine balancing act as we have so many competing priorities. It’s getting harder and harder to continue to protect those services that people want and need, but we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.

“We know that in future there will be some significant changes to services that people hold dear, but we need to start making those decisions now as the money simply won’t be there to continue to provide them in the same way.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 Feb 2015

Dave Prentis: Unison reps have more standing than Conservative MPs

A union chief claims his reps have more standing than the MPs calling for reform.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the country’s biggest trade union, Unison, slammed Tory plans to make striking harder . . . and said millions of paid up members give union chiefs more clout that politicians.

He was speaking as of the Northern TUC held a Public Services Alliance Emergency Summit in Newcastle over what unions brand a “constant assault on the public sector”.

David Cameron’s party wants to raise the strike ballot threshold to a 40% turnout, end a ban on using agency workers to cover strikers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for strike action to take place and curb picketing.

Today, a strike is valid if it achieves a simple majority.

Defenders of the proposals – which form part of the Tories’ election manifesto – say strikes with low turnout among supporters are not legitimate.

But Dave Prentis said his union has the backing of its 1.3 million members, adding: “As public sector workers, we need to be able to take many forms of action or employers will be able to do whatever they want to us.

“If we do get another five years of this coalition, public services will shrink back to 1930s levels and the trade unions will be hit more than anybody else.

“We represent 1.3 million public sector workers and I really do think that trade unions and their representatives have got more standing than the politicians putting forward these proposals.”

The union chief is lashing out after a long period of discontent which has seen dozens of strikes across the public sector over job losses and pay cuts.

He added the reforms put unions in an impossible position.

He said: : “Turnout is about 25% to 30% throughout the country but we do want to encourage people to vote.

“We spend millions of pounds sending out voting papers to home addresses when life is different now. You can vote electronically and in many different organisations you use email or mobile phone but we can’t do that.

“We are willing to fund a ballot box near workplaces to do a vote just like in a general election, but because of legislation we can’t do these things.

“The only means our members can vote is a postal ballot. This puts us in an impossible position.”

The Emergency Public Services Summit is being held at the Thistle County Hotel in Newcastle city centre on Saturday.

It is chaired by Clare Williams, chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance, and other speakers include Tyneside Labour MPs Dave Anderson and Chi Onwurah.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Jan 2015

Tory proposal for union ballot reform could be a vote loser in the North East

With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.

The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.

Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.

And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.

A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.

There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.

Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.

For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.

After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.

In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.

Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:

“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.

“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”

Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.

Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:

“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.

“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”

 

Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.

He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.

Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.

Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.

Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.

They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.

The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.

In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.

“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.

But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.

At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.

She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.

However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.

He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.

Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.

It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.

Public Sector Workers Day of Action March and Rally Newcastle
Public Sector Workers Day of Action March and Rally Newcastle

But Ms Hale added:

“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”

However, Mr McLoughlin said:

“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”

He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.

It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”

CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:

“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”

However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.

Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.

He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”

But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015

Newcastle City Council jobs axe is a return to out-dated ‘salami-slice’ policy, says union boss

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.

He said:

“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

Newcastle parents group rubbish Revolutionary Communist Party link made by Nick Forbes

A campaign group fighting against cuts which will see child provision in Newcastle slashed has slammed city council leader Nick Forbes for linking them to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Parents against Cuts was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m, were first made public.

The group has since arranged a number of high profile protests while Mr Forbes has been heckled at meetings and protests have been staged outside his council surgery.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

He also said he wasn’t going to engage in playground politics with people who shouted and threw things.

Vanessa Cutter of PAC said: “I was astounded that the leader of the council could come out with such ludicrous comments.”

She described the link with the Revolutionary Communist Party as “completely unfounded”.

Details of the group’s action have appeared on the party’s website.

Ms Cutter added:

“They have also appeared on the Unison website. Does that make us a front for Unison too? The Revolutionary Communists are an anti-cuts party so it is natural that they report on us, an anti-cuts group.

“I think Mr Forbes is feeling the pressure of our campaign.”

> Parents against Cuts have appeared in this blog before too ! Whatever can it mean ?

However the city council leader hit back saying:

“There is strong evidence that the Revolutionary Communist Party is claiming the credit for the disruptive activities of the Parents Against Cuts group.”

He claimed the PAC had called for the setting of an illegal budget which would bring the city into disrepute.

> Which otherwise might be seen as making a stand against central government austerity policies.

Ms Cutter has also attacked the details released in this week’s £40m budget cuts announcement which has still left those parents who will be affected by the reduction of the Sure Start service in the dark as to the extent of them.

She said:

“We were told they would tell us which centres would be closed on December 1, then December 5, then December 17 and now it could be next week.

“I think it is very strategic as we believe he wants to delay the announcement to closer to Christmas as it will be harder to build resistance.”

However Mr Forbes denied this saying it was always the intention for the final decision on Sure Start provision to be decided at the council’s Cabinet meeting in January.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Dec 2014

South Tyneside Council faces yet more cuts after losing £7m in funding

The pain is set to continue for South Tyneside Council and the people it serves as a near £7m cut in government funding was announced.

It means the authority will need to find yet more savings from services.

The settlement for 2015/16 – the amount the council can expect from the Government – announced by Local Government and Communities Minister Kris Hopkins yesterday, is £161,662m – compared to £168,482m – in the current financial year.

That is a reduction of four per cent and means the local authority has £6.821m less to spend on everything from waste collection to road maintenance.

That is significantly higher than the national average grant allocation cut of just 1.8 per cent.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said:

“The Government has published its provisional grant figures for local authorities.

“We are currently analysing the proposed settlement for South Tyneside in detail to look at how it impacts on the local authority’s finances.

“We have already had to deal with an unprecedented series of budget cuts and have made savings of more than £100m so far. Over recent years, we have redesigned our services for maximum efficiency, improved quality through new models of service delivery and strategically planned ahead for further funding reductions.”

Borough council leaders do at least have an incentive to freeze council tax – for the fifth consecutive year.

Since 2011, the local authority has not increased the levy to its taxpayers by utilising a financial incentive from central government.

The Government has confirmed that incentive will remain in place in 2015/16 – making another freeze more likely.

Merv Butler, branch secretary of the borough’s Unison trade union, who has seen hundreds of his members lose their council jobs over the last four years, accused the Government of targeting areas in the most need.

He said: “This announcement is desperately difficult news for council staff and services.”

The local authority has already made an estimated £90m of efficiency savings since 2010, shedding 1,200 jobs in the process and the latest settlement will have an impact on every home in the borough.

There are 70,329 households in South Tyneside and average council spending on each amounts to £2,395.63p in the current financial year.

Next year that will drop to £2,298.65p – a four per cent reduction of £96,98p per household.

Mr Butler added:

“I expected a difficult settlement and that’s what we got. The fact that the council’s spending power has been reduced compared to the English average shows again that the Government is not giving sufficient grants to areas of need such as South Tyneside.”

Mr Hopkins has insisted the funding grants settlement for 2015-16 was “fair for all parts of the country”.

He said:

“Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to substantially receive more funding and we continue to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4 per cent in spending power in 2015-16, the lowest level in this Parliament.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  19 Dec 2014