A UNION leader has criticised cuts aimed at “the most vulnerable people in society” proposed by Swindon Council.

Reductions in subsidy to the Dial A Ride service, closures of youth centres and changes to community centres have all been proposed by the council in a bid to plug its £12m budget gap.

There will also be around 50 redundancies as part of more than £7m of efficiency savings in all areas of the council.

Chris Howe, regional organiser at Unison, said: “The first we heard of these cuts was when we saw it in the Adver. These cuts are very severe and will affect the most vulnerable people in society.

“Services like Dial A Ride are really important community services that have a huge effect on people’s lives.

“These cuts will have an immediate impact.”

Mr Howe admitted that the council had been put in a difficult position because of the level of funding it receives but said some of the measures should be rethought.

North Swindon MP Michael Wills also criticised the cuts, contrasting the £6,000 that will be saved by switching off 481 street lights and the decisions to continue spending £30,000 a year on the Big Screen in Wharf Green and the £450,000 loan to fund the wi-fi project.

He said: “Everyone accepts the council has got to cut its cloth. These are difficult times and they have to make some hard decisions.

“But I am surprised by their priorities. Dial A Ride is a crucial community resource and over the years I have fought to preserve their funding.

“It’s sad that these councillors do not appear to recognise the importance of the service to vulnerable people. At the same time they continue to invest money in projects, such as the w-fi scheme and the Big Screen, which my constituents do not regard as a priority.

“The only way these hard choices can be made is for the councillors to consult fully with residents.

“It appears they have very arrogantly made all these decisions without consultation.”

If the proposals are passed by Swindon Council’s cabinet at Wednesday’s meeting residents will have until January 31 to express their opinions.

West Swindon resident Sandys Powell, 53, agreed that the council had got its priorities wrong. He said: “If they have no money why can they pay for things like the Big Screen or the Radio One Party In the Park? These are essential services and if money is taken from them people will suffer.”