UNISON demands emergency meeting to debate reckless cuts in Somerset

UNISON is calling for Somerset County Council to hold an emergency meeting to debate new cuts to services, due to be agreed by the cabinet tomorrow (Wednesday).

UNISON’s Somerset County branch will be staging a protest outside County Hall, Taunton, at 9.15am tomorrow.

Last month the council announced proposals to reduce spending by an additional £15 million on top of the cuts already planned for the year. This means up to £30 million will be taken away from services in Somerset.

The cuts will affect 70 service areas and will result in up to 130 staff redundancies. The ‘getset’ service, which provides early years support to families*, faces loosing 80 members of staff.

Cuts could also mean the end of the Park and Ride service in Taunton, a reduction in gritting routes and less funding for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

In March the council set its budget for the year, which was passed by full council. Since then the council’s finances have rapidly declined prompting warnings from external auditors.

UNISON said the haste of these cuts and the serious nature of them warrants a recall of the full council.

UNISON branch secretary for Somerset County Kris Black said: “The council should not be making decisions that have this level of impact without a full discussion.

“Much of what is being pushed through in these proposals are short-term cuts that look bad on paper but will be worse in reality.

“UNISON believes these proposals are intended to make the balance sheet work for the next year or two, but will not be sustainable. It will council workers who bear the brunt of this – both through jobs cuts and because they will be left to run potentially unsafe and failing services.”

UNISON regional organiser for the South West Helen Eccles said: “We’re really concerned by the proposals to hollow out the ‘getset’ service. This service supports families across Somerset and bridges the gap between issues dealt with by school staff and those managed by social workers.

“This will have long-term repercussions and costs for the council, families and the local community. It’s clear that by removing 80 family support workers more work will be passed onto social workers that the council cannot recruit, and more children will be placed with care homes that the council cannot afford or with foster families that the council cannot find.

“The council should think again on these cuts and instead use the influence they possess with this government and demand a better funding settlement for Somerset.”

Notes to Editors
*130 posts are going in total, many of which will be compulsorily redundancies. Over half, 80, will likely be in the ‘getset’ service. These are primarily Levels 2 and 3 Family Support Workers, who help young families in need of support, bridging the gap between work addressed through schools (Level 1) and that dealt with by qualified social workers (Level 4). This is a front line, preventative service, with staff working from hubs across Somerset, often co-located with family centres.