Cuts to council staff numbers criticised by Greens

Hove Town Hall
Hove Town Hall

Plans to make sweeping staff cuts across Brighton and Hove City Council have been criticised by Green councillors.

Councillors will discuss budget proposals for 2017/18 at next Thursday’s policy resources and growth committee (February 9), ahead of the final budget meeting on February 23.

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, convenor of the Green Group, said: “We know that 309 staff are engaged in consultation exercises which could result in around 39 redundancies. Further consultation exercises will start in the near future affecting approximately 123 staff which could result in around 45 redundancies.

“We have been warned by council leader, Warren Morgan that ‘some budget proposals may require formal consultation with staff later in the year as detailed proposals emerge’.

“Again we are concerned to see that we will lose experienced staff who are deeply valued. The budget proposals come after inadequate consultation with staff and service users. What is worrying is that many of these consultations have begun prior to any budget being agreed through the formal democratic process.

“I am worried about the damage to staff morale who are valiantly keeping services going, while others are leaving.

“We know that 60 per cent of our staff are women so having faced so much of the burden of cuts once again they will be faced with even more. Seven in 10 staff have worked for the council for over five years so cuts will see the council lose years’ worth of accumulated knowledge of the city. It’s just another way in which short-sighted cuts are wrecking public services.

“We will be looking in much more detail at the budget proposals and preparing a fuller analysis in the coming weeks.”

At the last Full Council meeting, Cllr Mac Cafferty was told that the 309 staff in consultation over 39 redundancies are in the following departments: civil contingencies, childcare workforce development, transport, facilities and building services, ICT, policy partnership and scrutiny and finance.

The consultation set to take place in ‘the near future’, affecting 123 staff (and resulting in 45 redundancies), involve: communities and equalities, youth service, disability services management, early help services, economic development and bereavement services.

Cllr Mac Cafferty was also told that further consultation will take place relating to the potential TUPE transfer of staff in learning disability accommodation services, hostels and the music service, impacting 91 staff.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Greens are very good at highlighting the cuts within the budget, but seem oblivious to the cause; the millions of pounds in funding for local services being cut by the government.

“They made cuts when running the council, but now refuse to play any constructive role in trying to set a budget at all. We hope they will engage positively at Budget Council and not just refuse to support anything as they did last year.

“We are doing our very best to protect as many jobs as possible, but if the Greens and Conservatives join together in voting the budget down then the government could step in and cut many more.”

Sue Beatty, UNISON branch secretary for Brighton and Hove, said: “Whilst we understand the dilemma that the current Labour administration are in with regard to central government funding reducing further and further, UNISON would like to see more of a stand being taken by Labour councils over these cuts.

“The ‘threat’ of central government coming into a council is one which is always raised as a Damocles Sword should a budget not be set, but UNISON would argue that a needs-led budget should be agreed by all Labour councils collectively within the region, rather than them struggling on their own.

“We do not think that any Labour administration should be doing the work of a Tory government hell-bent on destroying our much needed and well-loved public services.

“We are also deeply concerned that prior to the budget being discussed at the next Full Council meeting on February 23 where proposals for cuts would be ratified or not, consultations on cuts which will affect our members are already underway presupposing outcomes.”

Brighton and Hove City Council is expected to set its budget for 2017/18 at the Budget Council meeting on Thursday, February 23.