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Bust up at the budget
UNISON has branded Swindon Council’s proposed budget 'depressing and detrimental' – prompting the leader of the council to suggest the union is living in “some sort of Alice in Wonderland world”.
Bob Cretchley, the union’s Swindon branch chairman, has warned about the impact of the proposed job losses and spending cuts ahead of the full council meeting next Thursday to set the budget for 2013/14.
The Conservative administration’s final budget proposals aim to plug a £15million funding gap, which is due mainly to reduced Government income and increased cost pressures, including increased demand for services.
This includes £3.4m of savings from cutting about 100 council posts – up from the figure of slightly more than £2m in the draft proposals in December, when just 70 posts were threatened. Some of the posts are already vacant. The plans include a £200,000 saving through revising the bus subsidy strategy as part of the council’s plan to create a fully commercial bus network.
In a letter to councillors, Mr Cretchley writes: “Yet again the council is proposing a thoroughly depressing and detrimental budget which means another year of damaging cuts.
“This has an adverse effect on the local people including the most vulnerable and needy, on the local economy through reduced spending, and on your own staff.
“Unison has concern at the proposal for a ‘fully commercial bus network’ by withdrawing council subsidies. This will potentially hit those residents who depend on a comprehensive local bus network.”
He said by contrast the council had spent large sums for “political aims”, citing the £500,000 ballot of council house tenants over transfer to a housing association.
Coun Rod Bluh, the council leader, said his priority was to protect jobs and services.
He said: “What the unions are asking us to do is protect frontline services, protect jobs and increase pay.
“Unfortunately, I’m living in the real world, not some sort of Alice in Wonderland world. If they can tell me how they can do all these three things out of the declining budgets, I would be very pleased to hear it.”