Union warns over impact on services

Protests at the last round of council cuts and (below) Dion Baugh from local government UNISON and Gordon Marsden MP. Bottom: Chairman of Queens Park Residents Association Gwen King.
Protests at the last round of council cuts and (below) Dion Baugh from local government UNISON and Gordon Marsden MP. Bottom: Chairman of Queens Park Residents Association Gwen King.
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UNION leaders today said they were devastated at the extent of the proposed cuts and called for alternatives to be found to axing jobs.

Dion Baugh, regional organiser for local government union Unison, said: “We are disappointed about the £13.6m of cuts which the council has to find.

Dion Baugh from local government UNISON

Dion Baugh from local government UNISON

“The impact on public services is going to be devastating across the board.

“There are some youth and adult services that are being withdrawn.

“We will be scrutinising these reports because we believe there must be alternatives to these cuts.

“Our staff has already made plenty of sacrifices over the last few years, and yet they are looking for staff to make reductions again in the form of four days unpaid leave.

Gordon Marsden MP

Gordon Marsden MP

“How much more can public sector workers stand?

“Our members’ incomes have fallen by 20 per cent in real terms over the past five years.

“There are alternatives.

“A 1.9 per cent increase in council tax could generate £600,000.”

Chairman of Queens Park Residents Association Gwen King.

Chairman of Queens Park Residents Association Gwen King.

Consultation began yesterday between the unions and town hall bosses and Ms Baugh said they would work with the council to minimise compulsory redundancies.

In previous years Unison has held demonstrations outside the town hall.

Ms Baugh said: “It is too early to say whether our members will consider any industrial action but they are not happy about having more cuts.

“Public sector workers are feeling the pinch and a lot of our members may end up on the poverty line if they lose their jobs.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said increasing the council tax was not an option.

He said: “I could not justify sending out increased council tax bills to anyone in the difficult economic circumstances people are currently facing.”

Coun Blackburn added: “I shall be seeking a meeting with the secretary of state in January, once our final settlement figure is known, to impress on him the need to listen to the voice of both local Government and the trade union movement on this matter.”

Union leaders have also said a decision on plans to give every school pupil in Blackpool a free breakfast to stop them turning up for lessons hungry, approved during the council’s executive meeting last night, should be re-looked at.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said the council was facing the consequences of four years worth of cuts imposed by the government.

He said: “I am relieved it would appear from the initial proposals, that services for the most vulnerable and particularly in areas of adult services, have been safeguarded.

“It is sad the council is going to discontinue the universal youth service although they are ring fencing support for vulnerable groups.

“But the writing was on the wall when funding for the youth service was slashed by the previous administration.

“I hope the council will use the consultation period to look in depth at how the commissioning fund could be augmented by businesses in terms of advice and guidance.”

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Shock over scale of cuts

COMMUNITY leaders said they were shocked by the magnitude of the proposed cuts and called for the most vulnerable people to be protected.

Chairman of Queens Park Residents Association Gwen King (pictured) said: “We can’t go on funding everything, but if they have to make staff redundant I wouldn’t want it to be from frontline services.

“This is happening all over the country – it’s not just Blackpool.

“But the jobs situation is already bad in Blackpool so it will be tough for anyone who loses their job to find a new one. As a front line organisation we will be able to take up some of the slack, but it will make us very busy in turn.”

Since the coalition came into power, Blackpool Council has seen its budget reduced by £18.9m.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of the council, said: “We had to look at reducing significantly parts of the youth service and our customer first centre.

“Unfortunately people will have to accept that some services will need to be delivered in a different way and some will end or be reduced and there is no hiding from the fact that it will affect our residents. All of the proposals are of course subject to consultation and every household can have their say.”

Ann Allen, of the Mereside Tenants and Residents Association, said she is worried about cuts to the youth service.

She said: “I would be very concerned if vulnerable people are affected, and I am also worried about cuts to the youth service. We need to keep on supporting our young people rather than cutting back. I would like to see savings made by having further reductions to the salaries of top management at the town hall.”

Terry Bennett, chairman of the Grange Park Community Partnership, said it was important to protect frontline services as far as possible.

He said: “It is very worrying that even more cuts have to be made.

“But what I would hope is to see is that those people most in need do have their services protected. If cuts have to be made, then they have to be made, but it seems to me it is the Labour councils which are taking the brunt of it.”

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