Latest cuts hit 33 jobs in Darlington . . . but unions fear more will go
Only 33 posts are being made redundant or unfilled in the first round of cuts in Darlington. But union leaders tell reporter Paul Cook they fear a lot worse is to come.
FOR three years, unions in Darlington have fought job cuts during annual budget reviews.
This year, the axeman has come calling twice – at the turn of the year 77 posts went from the local authority, now another 33 are to go.
The latest, breaking down to 20 redundancies and 13 vacant posts going unfilled, is as a result of the public spending squeeze. Darlington Borough Council is one of the first authorities to start the review, removing £1.2m from the public purse.
With a total of £22m of savings needed from a controllable budget of £107m over four years, unions fear a similar proportion in job losses.
Further details will be revealed in the autumn, but unions expect large cuts in non-statutory services. They could include social services for the elderly and young, arts and leisure and even the library.
Alan Docherty, GMB representative, says: “It is in the longer term that we are all worried about. The next cuts will be quite big. That is worrying to the trade unions. We don’t know how big they will be but we think it will be quite deep.”
He expects ten per cent of posts to be under threat, with up to 1,000 over four years.
Bob Wood, from Unison, says: “Our concern is that what is coming, what is happening and what happens with the spending review will all have a devastating impact on services.
“We could see whole service areas being lost. They are talking about £22m from its budget. Whole services could go and perhaps those that are not statutory.
“There are things the council provides which many members of the public don’t realise that the council doesn’t have to legally provide.”
The two unions have joined forces with others to form the Darlington Against Cuts group and plan a number of events to fight for their cause.
They say staff morale is at an all-time low, that work loads are increasing, and call for councillors to fight to preserve services rather than simply pass on Government cuts.
A definitive list of the jobs lost is unavailable, but council papers show they include some middle and senior managers. Voluntary redundancies and restructuring will make up some of the losses.
Two posts are expected to go in each of the children’s service Contact Point, countryside rangers and the CCTV team.
Between seven and ten cleaners will leave with staff having to clean their own offices.
Half a post is going from the communications department, with fewer publications of Town Crier. Positions at Ringa-Ride and Shopmobility are also threatened.
A council spokeswoman says: “The council has already implemented, or is in consultation with the workforce, on a number of potential redundancies. Some were part of the budget process at the start of the year, others are a result of the mid-term review which was required in response to in-year Government funding cuts.
“There have already been more than 30 job losses across a number of different areas including management and administration within adult social care, the arts centre, trading standards, customer services and arboriculture.
“We are in consultation with the trade unions and the workforce onmore than 20 potential redundancies from the mid-year Government cuts.
“In addition, any posts that become vacant are not being filled unless it is essential to do so.
“The areas where redundancies are proposed come about for a number of different reasons – but are all as a result of the need to make savings.
“The council tries to minimise the impact of budget cuts on key frontline services, but the climate we are now facing makes this increasingly difficult.”