As you may be aware by now Manchester Labour Group had an awayday on Saturday 8th November to consider how Manchester Council can respond to expected further Tory / Lib Dem cuts in Manchester’s budget of approximately £60m in 2015/16 rising to up to a further £30m in 2016/17. At the moment these are estimates based on information available and will not be confirmed until the publication of the Local Government Financial Settlement in December for 2015/16.
These anticipated cuts are on top of all the massive cuts already imposed by a Coalition Government without any electoral mandate whatsoever which will result in the further destruction of vital services for Manchester people.
UNISON nationally, regionally and locally will do all it can with others in the campaign up to the General Election, due in less than six months, to help remove as many Tory and Lib Dem MP’s as possible to prevent the nightmare of 5 more years of assaults on our communities and attacks on public service workers.
But Manchester Council is now having to consider options for how it could be possible to achieve a balanced budget for 2015/2016 and that process will start to take place from this week.
A range of possible options will be outlined in Directorate briefings across the city early this week and will be published by the Council for the first time on Wednesday 12th November.
No decisions on which options are required will be made before a period of public consultation as well as discussions with trade unions on any options.
Following consultation and appraisal of options Budget proposals will be presented to the Executive in January 2015 with final decisions taken by the February Executive prior to the 2015/16 Budget being agreed at the meeting of full Council in early March.
However, whatever the exact level of Budget cuts which is yet to be confirmed and the decisions on which options will be pursued, the cuts will be massive.
Manchester’s budget reduction is likely to be amongst the worst ten across the country.
At the same time it is expected that many Tory areas, including Councils in cabinet MP’s constituencies, will have their budgets protected or in some cases even increased!
Manchester UNISON branch has always made clear our complete opposition to compulsory redundancies and that remains the position.
However in light of the sheer scale of the level of anticipated cuts the Council is to propose a time limited Voluntary Severance (VS) / Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) scheme which will start from 27 November and run until 19 December to look at voluntary means to identify the workforce reductions that will be required.
Details of the scheme and application process will be forwarded, by the Council, to all staff once the Council formally agree the operation of the VS / VER schemes.
It is likely the terms will be the same as applied in previous exercises.
Subject to the schemes being approved, although they would not formally open until 27th November, the Council intends to open a helpline from 17th November and staff will be notified of the details.
Applications received by 19th December will be assessed and decisions will start to be made from early January which will allow some staff to leave before the end of March.
UNISON will support members in this process, though clearly decisions on which applications may be accepted is at the discretion of the Council based on financial costs and service needs criteria.
Whatever the nature of the specific budget options that will be pursued it is clear the outcome will be bad.
- The people of Manchester who will face yet further cuts in desperately needed public services.
- Vulnerable people in Manchester who will face no or reduced access to key services for the elderly, the young and disabled.
- The future of combined health and social care provision in the context of further slashed budgets.
- Council workers who do not leave on VS / VER but remain to work in ever more pressured workplaces striving to provide the best level of services possible in an environment of continued attacks on the level of resources available.
UNISON will do all that is possible to work with, support and defend our members in Manchester in the difficult times ahead.
Manchester UNISON Branch will send out further communications as options emerge. We will attend briefings of staff wherever possible, meet with stewards to hear member’s views and will work on behalf of members in the inevitable further reviews and redesigns which will occur in the coming months.
In any negotiations with employers the greater the union density in the workplace the greater the collective influence the union has on behalf of members with the employers so now is the time to ask any non union members to join. In order to ensure the views of UNISON members in your service area are represented, if you don’t currently have a steward, now would be a good to time to consider electing one!
However difficult the future may be Manchester UNISON will continue to seek to assist, advise, represent and negotiate for our members on an individual and collective basis.