UNISON members protest today over £66m council cuts

Somerset County CouncilUNISON members are today protesting at unprecedented cuts at Somerset County Council that will result in the loss of up to 270 jobs.

The £66m cuts over three years come on top of the hundreds of job losses over the last few years, and follow a four-year pay freeze for staff.

Somerset County UNISON Branch has organised a protest of the council in Taunton, beginning at 9am.

Organiser Oliver Foster-Burnell said: “With this latest round of cuts, which comes on top of tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts over the last few years, we are seriously concerned about the impact they will have on the most vulnerable residents of Somerset.

“We have genuine concerns that the cuts to staffing levels and services will put the general public and specifically the poorest and most vulnerable at risk at a time when we should be looking at protecting them.  This is even backed up by the council’s own equality impact assessment which identifies that these cuts will have a disproportionate impact on age (the elderly and the young), disability and low income.”

Somerset County UNISON Assistant Branch Secretary Arminel Goodall said: “We are long past the point where any staff might conceivably be engaged in unessential work. Any cuts to staff will have a direct effect on the provision of services to the public.  Staff and services are have been cut to the bare bone and are under immense pressure.  Some are at breaking point.  I lack the words to encompass just how grim things are likely to be.”

Oliver Foster-Burnell continued: “Freezing council tax for another year just does not make sense – an increase of just 2.5% would be worth £5m a year.

“This Conservative administration is not reflecting the needs of the community, nor it is doing anything to challenge the diminishing grants given to it by the government.  It is not making decisions that represent what their constituents want or need.  Instead of towing the party line, councillors could take a stance and stand up for their community, their constituents, their services and their local economy.

“The cuts, totalling £66m over the next three years start with £16m coming off of this year’s budget.  It appears to us that this is purely a political decision ahead of the elections.  The Council has dived into the reserves this year in an obvious pre‑election attempt to delay the true scale of the coming cuts until after the election, when the cuts increase by another £8m to £10m year on year.”