Unions urge council to challenge level of cuts
TRADE unions have urged councillors in Darlington to fight the Government over the level of proposed cuts in a bid to protect services.
Darlington Borough Council cabinet has approved the trimming of £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 rather than simply pass on the savings.
Coun 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 claim that the cuts were just the tip of the iceberg and said he would not apologise for “previous investment which has benefited the town”.
Council deputy leader Coun 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.”
Coun 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.”
Coun Mike Barker, Liberal Democrat representative, said: “If we had not done this now, we would have had to take far greater action later on.”