I WOULD like to expand on the comments made by UNISON’s Area Organiser, Fred Jerrome, on the proposed cuts to local authority jobs and services in Taunton Deane and West Somerset.

There is understandable concern about the proposed merger of Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils and its implications for local democracy. 

However, what will really make a difference from the public’s point of view is the ongoing reduction in the two councils’ budgets - a direct result of the Government’s austerity agenda.

We have known for some time that a cut of 22 per cent in the staff budget was to be expected, and we believe that, in some service areas, this will result in actual staffing reductions closer to 30 per cent. 

With the best will in the world, there is no way that the same level of services can be delivered to the community with cuts of this scale. 

Reductions of 22 per cent, 25 per cent or 30 per cent are not merely ‘efficiency savings’, as some may choose to believe.

UNISON also has reservations about the wholesale restructuring or ‘transformation’ model that the two councils are pursuing at the behest of the Ignite consultancy. 

Turning everything upside down seems likely to add to the difficulties of trying to deliver services to the community with significantly lower levels of funding. 

It is also likely that Taunton Deane and West Somerset will lose many experienced employees as a result of the staffing approach that is being adopted.

Local government in Britain has been forced to endure a slow, lingering death as a result of too much central control and an inadequate local tax base. 

The difficulties facing Taunton Deane and West Somerset demonstrate once again that a fairer financial deal for councils is long overdue.

Branch Secretary
Taunton Deane & West Somerset UNISON