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Unison bosses fear for morale over council cuts - plus more reaction
UNION bosses today described the fresh round of cuts at Worcestershire County Council as “horrendous” - and say they fear for morale.
Jim Price, from Unison’s County Hall branch, also says he wants to launch a campaign over protecting vital services from the chop.
As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, the number of savings is to rocket 50 per cent next year to £30 million.
In each of the following years old savings targets of £20 million are being torn up and replaced by requirements of about £25 million.
Sources have also told your Worcester News some officers are privately suggesting the cuts revealed yesterday could even get worse, depending on further demographic pressures and Government funding.
Mr Price said: “People have been coming up to me in the corridor not far off tears - morale has been on the floor for the last couple of years but obviously this will make it worse.
“It’s terrible news and we are looking at a wider public campaign to try and protect services and jobs as much as possible - it’s a horrendous situation.
“It’s very frustrating because we’re trying to get more information on what it will mean.”
The deputy leader of Worcestershire’s Liberal Democrat group, meanwhile, says services for the vulnerable must be protected at all costs.
Councillor Tom Wells said: “We’ve got an elderly population in Worcestershire with growing needs.
“If you had a straight choice between say, mobile libraries or adult social care and services for the vulnerable, I know which one I’d cut.
“That would be my concern, so we need to make sure those very important services are protected.”
The leadership has already pledged that some of the most vital budgets, including those for the vulnerable, will actually be increased.
Back in January your Worcester News revealed another 650 jobs will be scrapped by 2017/18, taking the total to 1,500 over a six-year period.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said he does not expect the fresh cuts to make a major extra impact on those job losses, although some more are likely.
It could be that if the authority manages to hand over some services to outside bodies, known as commissioning, people’s roles are transferred over to new employers, mitigating the impact on the local economy.
Some sources suggest the mobile library service and transport subsidies are two areas being examined for cuts, although nothing is concrete.
A timetable can also be revealed spelling out when the first set of details will emerge over the savings.
All unions will be briefed on Tuesday October 15, and the next day a report will be published for the Overview and Performance Scrutiny Board about cuts for 2014/15.
Then, a cabinet meeting will take place on Thursday November 7 which will lead to a major public consultation ahead of setting the budget.
Coun Hardman said: “It will be no real surprise to people in Worcestershire that the council, like many other public authorities, has less money to do the things that local people have said are important to them, and so we have to do things differently.
“Over the coming years we will be reforming, not standing still.
"We remain committed to protecting vulnerable residents of the county and investing in the future.
"To do this, we will need to do things differently so services may look and feel different to service users.
“It may also mean that others provide services that we have historically provided as they may be better placed to do so.
"The council is proposing to increase budgets where we have significant pressure from increased demand, in areas such as looked after children and services to vulnerable older people.
"It's not going to be easy but we are determined Worcestershire will emerge at the end of this recession a stronger version of its prior self."
He said protecting vulnerable residents was the ultimate priority, despite the outlook.
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