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Government cuts to Manchester City Council

Members will have seen by now reports about proposals to introduce a voluntary severance scheme due to be considered for approval by the Council on 19th January 2011.

UNISON has been involved in meetings with both the Leader of the Council and also with the Chief Executive in recent weeks following the announcement of the ConDem Government’s cut in funding for Manchester. It was always clear that funding for Council services for Manchester people would be seriously attacked.

But the scale of the Government assault on the City could not reasonably be expected both in terms of the sheer extent of the cut in funding and the front loading requirement to make virtually all the cuts in the first year. In effect Manchester’s funding has been cut by £110m. This represents a cut in one year of 25% in the Councils budget.

It is the 5th worst settlement across the whole country.

Clearly this puts the City under enormous pressure to manage that scale of cuts and still try to maintain services as best as possible. This is a massive challenge to the Council, our workforce and our union.

In discussions with the Council it has been clear that reductions of £40m have now been identified in non staff cost areas of budget expenditure. However, this still leaves a shortfall of £70m in the budget which needs to be found on an ongoing basis (it is not a one off cut).

As part of our discussions, it was clear to all that part of responding to the situation we face was the necessity to offer staff the opportunity to apply for voluntary severance or early retirement. UNISON met yesterday with the Council Leader and today with the Chief Executive to discuss further the formula to be used which will determine the specific nature of the offer to be made available to staff. Those discussions will be completed over the next few days as well as confirmation of the details of arrangements by which staff can apply if they wish to.

Following the meeting of the Executive on 19th all Council staff will personally receive details of the offer and arrangements to express an interest in applying. Whilst there will be an assumption that the vast majority of applications will be agreed, the scheme remains a discretionary one with decisions based on a case by case basis.

A headline figure of 2,000 full time equivalent posts has been referred to. However it is important to note that this is only an approximate figure based on an average salary. If the average salary of those who apply is higher than the Council average salary, fewer posts will need to be lost, but the reverse is also true. The key figure is the £70 million shortfall in funding.

UNISON has also raised the issue of savings being pursued in other ways, such as by reducing the amount spent on consultants and making further use of shared services with other GM Councils.

UNISON Manchester will arrange meetings with members from next Wednesday once the details of the scheme are finalised.

Whilst as a union we see the need for a voluntary severance package given the financial circumstances, UNISON has made it very clear we remain completely opposed to compulsory redundancies.

In addition to further circulars via stewards, as soon as any new information is available it will be placed immediately on our Branch website.

UNISON Manchester Branch will continue to support our members in these difficult times of ConDem attacks on our City and on our services

We will also be receiving additional organising assistance from our Region. It is vital that we recruit every non trade union member as unity is more important than ever in these circumstances, so ask any colleagues not in a union to join now

Pat McDonagh

Branch Secretary

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