Unite: Job cuts at Liverpool and Sefton are devastating

The UK's biggest trade union has branded the decision by Liverpool and Sefton Councils to cut a possible 2,500 jobs as "brutal" and "devastating".

Liverpool City Council plans to cut 1,500 jobs by the end of March 2013 by compulsory redundancies, if necessary, and Sefton Council's proposal to cut 1,000 jobs are being discussed at a council meeting at Southport Town Hall at 6pm on Thursday.

Sefton Council declined to comment when contacted by Place but said it will be making a response to any decision after its meeting.

These latest cuts follow the announcement earlier this month by Manchester City Council to cut 2,000 jobs because of a government's spending review.

Unite said it would be holding a consultative ballot of its 1,100 Manchester members on possible industrial action.

Unite estimates that throughout the North West the job loss tally could reach 10,000 in the near future.

In strongly worded statement, Debbie Brannan, a Unite regional officer, said: "The cuts planned by Liverpool and Sefton Councils are brutal and will have a devastating impact on services for some of the most vulnerable members of society.

"We will be discussing with our members at both councils what action they wish to take to halt these job losses caused by the coalition's decision to deeply cut local government funding. We are being hit by a tidal wave of job losses in the North West.

"We will be liaising with other trade unions and community groups to build a coalition of resistance against these cuts to vital services.

"The coalition has claimed that the private sector will absorb the public sector job losses. But when you have such high profile closures on the cards as Burton's Foods on the Wirral with 342 jobs to go, this does not auger well for a vibrant, job-creating private sector.

"The council workforces did not create the financial mess we are now in, it was a rampant, greedy, out-of-control City. Why should a refuse collector in Liverpool pay for the mistakes of a bonus-bloated City banker?

"Council leaders need to go back to communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles and challenge ministers on why they are causing mayhem with local services by this massive withdrawal of funding.

"The other complication in Liverpool is the cleansing and grounds maintenance contracts, where the majority of our members work, have been outsourced to Enterprise, a joint venture with the city council. We are expecting cuts there, but don't know the details yet."

Unite has more than 300 members at Liverpool City Council and nearly 600 at Sefton Council.

In a letter sent to council workers, Cllr Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council, said: "Around 80% of what the council spends comes from central government through various grants and financial support. The huge cutbacks in public spending announced by the government in its Comprehensive Spending Review, has had a huge impact on all councils.

"In simple terms, Liverpool City Council has to make £141m of cuts over two years.

"The 22% spending reductions needed are the biggest in living memory, and are far greater than the cutbacks faced in the 1980s. To date, savings have been identified which total £30m, through a series of efficiency measures including a review of senior management pay and structures, the opportunity for staff in certain areas to take voluntary severance, cutting down on the use of consultants and agency staff and managing vacancies.

"However, this is not the end. The following year (2012/13) the council faces a further cut of £50m from the government, which means more difficult choices ahead.

"It is difficult, at this stage, to be precise about all the services likely to affected by the cuts. Our priority has always been to protect, as far as possible, the essential services to children, the disabled and vulnerable who need the lifeline of the services the council provides. But, given the scale of the reductions we face, even these frontline services will not be immune from the cuts.

"We are now in a position to give you an estimate of the number of jobs we will have to lose to meet the £141m cut in spending. It will be in the region of 1,500 over two years. Try as we might, it will be impossible to achieve this reduction by voluntary severance alone. Regretfully, some of our staff are likely to face compulsory redundancy.

"Several hundred staff have so far left the authority through voluntary severance, early retirement and natural wastage. We will be looking to these options to find as many of the estimated 1,500 posts as we can.

"Decisions on where these redundancies may fall have not yet been taken, as discussions are ongoing about where the savings can be made. But it goes without saying that those affected will be offered as much support as possible to help them through the process, and we will apply fairness to every decision we make.

"The council has been pressing the Department of Communities and Local Government to think again about the unprecedented high level of spending cuts being imposed on the city.

"Liverpool is ranked, on the Government's own figures, as the most deprived authority in the country, yet the council has suffered the biggest cuts of any council by the Government. Some councils in the south have actually had an increase in their grant.

"Had the government reduced its support grant to Liverpool by the average, and not the highest, the council would be £26m better off, and the worst of the cuts would be unnecessary.

"We have asked the government to make two changes. Firstly, that Liverpool should face the average cuts imposed across all councils, not the highest. Secondly, we have asked if we could have four years to implement the cuts, as opposed to being forced to carry them out in just two years. We are awaiting their response.

"The aim is to try complete the all-party budget reviews by early February and to formally consult with the trades unions and staff on the details of service reductions and the impact that they will have on staffing levels during February.

"This is undoubtedly, a very unsettling time for all staff. There will be regular updates for staff during this period, together with team briefings, as the details of the spending cutbacks become clearer for each service area.

"The detailed budget will go to the city council's cabinet, who will present their final recommendations to a special council budget meeting on Wednesday 2 March."

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UPDATE: Adds comment from Joe Anderson

By Ed

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