The unions plan to lobby council meeting, and there were calls for staff to go on strike.
Unions in Brighton and Hove are set to team up in a coordinated effort to stop cuts to council services.
Representatives from UNISON, GMB, and NUT - covering carers, refuse collectors, teachers, social workers, nursery nurses, and other council staff – addressed dozens of council workers at a public meeting at the Brighthelm Centre on Tuesday.
The unions plan to lobby council meetings - including the policy and resources meeting on December 3, where the council budget will be discussed - and there were calls from the floor for staff to go on strike in response to cuts to services.
Sue Bowes, UNISON branch officer, explained how the council plans to save £100 million in the next four years, as a result of government cuts to funding.
She said: “The Labour administration, and the Green administration before them, has never thought about resisting those cuts in any way. By the end of this term, they expect the council to be 50% smaller than it is now - cut in half. We believe services are best delivered by the public sector.”
Sue Beatty, UNISON convenor of adult social care, said “It is extremely concerning that of all services being hit within adult social care, the most vulnerable in our society are being targeted with such speed. We are told that our services are ‘too expensive’. I’d suggest that there is no price that can be put on good services to ensure that the dignity of service users is a key priority.”
Simeon Elliott, NUT representative for Pre-School Educational Needs (PreSENS) staff, talked about the redesign to the special needs service, and said: “It is not about numbers it is about lives.”
Dave Russell, GMB representative for Hollingdean Depot, talked about the situation with City Clean, before a wider debate, when union members had a chance to air their views on council cuts.
Alex Knutsen, UNISON branch secretary, said: “In Oxfordshire, they have their MP David Cameron speaking out against the cuts! In Brighton and Hove we have to speak up for ourselves. We will ballot for strike action to save services and jobs if necessary.”
Cllr Warren Morgan, Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, responded to the unions’ call to stop the cuts to council services.
He said:“We are facing cuts of £25 million a year from the Conservative government, and they will have cut our revenue support grant entirely by 2019. That’s 30% of our funding. We can’t continue to provide our current services on 30% less money and we can’t increase council tax by 30% to make up the lost funding. So we have no option but to cut some services, but we will work closely with the unions, staff and others to find innovative solutions and alternatives, such as shared services, co-operatives, community-run services, trusts and more in order to keep things going and protect jobs wherever we can.”
This comes after Cllr Morgan sent a letter to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, who had criticised the council in his own constituency for the cuts they were making.
Cllr Morgan wrote: “As leader of a city council facing cuts of over £25 million in the coming financial year, and a budget gap of over £100 million by 2019, I was interested to see your offer of help from the No 10 Policy Unit to your local council in dealing with similar, if smaller cuts, affecting your constituency. As the use of the civil service for partisan advantage is against the ministerial code, I look forward to that advice being made available to other councils, including mine, in the coming weeks so that I can avoid decisions on service closures, job losses and withdrawal of funding that I will have little choice but to make.
“Alternatively, I would welcome a change of policy from your Government, the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government, on the complete withdrawal of revenue support grant funding during the coming three years, a policy that will lead to severe hardship amongst the people I represent and the decimation of local services in the city I serve. I look forward to your response.”