‘Blackest day’ as cuts in Darlington are approved
TRADE unions have urged councillors in Darlington to fight the Government over the level of proposed cuts to try to protect services.
Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet members last night gave approval to trimming £1.2m from services this year.
One Labour councillor described it as his blackest day in politics but opposition groups said the savings were necessary because of the country’s debt.
The first round of cuts in Darlington will see 33 posts lost, and a reduction in funding for several services, including school, disabled and elderly transport schemes, CCTV management and traffic projects. It will be followed by more reductions over four years to save £22m.
Dawn Taylor, assistant branch secretary for Unison, said morale among the authority’s workforce was at an all-time low because of the proposals. She added: “It is total nonsense for the Government to claim that budgets can be cut and that frontline services will be protected.
“We can see from the report that services will be affected.”
Unison publicity officer Bob Wood and GMB representative Alan Docherty both urged the council to challenge the Government-imposed grant reductions.
Councillor Chris McEwan, portfolio holder for resources, said in response: “We are fighting these cuts where we can. Our MP is trying to fight these cuts. It is important as a community we fight these cuts.
“But we must deal with the consequences in the event these cuts take place.”
He reiterated his warning that the cuts were only the tip of the iceberg and said he would not apologise for “previous investment which has benefited the town”.
Council deputy leader Bill Dixon said: “Today is the blackest day I can think of in my time in local Government.
But today is not going to be the blackest day that I will see.”
Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, said: “We would hope that we can protect frontline services as much as possible. This is very early days in the budget cuts.
There has to be a realisation that we are where we are and we cannot going on spending money which is not there.”
Councillor Mike Barker, Liberal Democrat representative, said: “If we had not done this now we would have had to take far greater action later on.”