Union members and anti-cuts campaigners are to rally outside the Civic Centre later today as Southampton’s councillors meet to debate and set the budget for the coming year.
It is expected that many of the austerity measures proposed and discussed in the past year will be rubber stamped, which campaigners say will ensure further job and pay cuts than already enacted from last year’s budget.
The Council say that the cuts are necessary with a large drop in funding from central government, and that they’ve done their best to protect front-line services such as libraries and surestart centres whilst keeping council tax frozen.
Quality of service fears
Campaigners though claim in turn that libraries were only prevented from shutting by campaigns to save them and that leisure centres were saved only by privatising them, which Unions are worried will lead to a drop in quality and more lay-offs down the line.
The Tory-led Council has also proposed becoming a ‘commisioning’ or a s-called ‘easyCouncil’, with most in-house services expected to eventually be outsourced the private sector to make savings. Unions fear this will hide many more job losses in future and will reduce the quality of public services for the value of council tax.
The Council will also likely pass cuts to adult social care which local MP John Denham has recently criticised in a 25 page dossier detailing poor standards in a third of Southampton’s Council-run residential homes. The Council has defended the cuts, saying that they will make the service more efficient without hitting quality of service.
Ongoing pay & job cuts dispute
Unions reconfirmed their continuing opposition to pay and job cuts in January, having rejected a proposed deal with the Council last Autumn.
The Unions in the dispute have also claimed that the Council have set aside £600’000 of the savings made by job cuts last year to fight them in Court over unfair dismissal claims. Unison’s regional office Andy Straker said that “It is outrageous that the Council intends to use the wages of those it unlawfully dismissed to pay any compensation payments. It should be the Councillors that made the decision to unlawfully sack Council employees who should meet the cost, not the victims of their unlawful behaviour.”
Youth Fighting for Jobs
Local campaigners for Youth Fight for Jobs are also set to picket the Council meeting, demanding that the Council follows some other local authorities in funding their own version of the abolished EMA, as well as provide affordable housing and create useful jobs for young people.
All in all, there’ll be a lot of angry people outisde the Civic Centre from 1pm today, and some councillors that will most likely be at least somewhat worried about the upcoming local elections in May…