UNISON members will have seen the broadcast message circulated late yesterday by the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive concerning future Council budgets in the light of the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition plans for further cuts.
The Council Budget is based on an April – March financial year and the broadcast statement referred to the current 2013/14 Budget and those anticipated for 2014/15 and 2015/16.
The drastic Government cuts in Manchester announced previously resulted in decisions in relation to the Budget for 2014/2015 which led to the closure of some services completely and reduction in others.
Manchester has been singled out nationally for disproportionate cuts in Council budgets in recent years.
Despite being in the top six Councils nationally in terms of areas with high social needs and poverty we were in the top six of the Councils with the highest budget cuts across the country.
The scale of these cuts have still to be fully felt by people in Manchester.
Some of the service cuts have been implemented on a phased basis and some decisions have not yet been enacted.
Whilst thousands of jobs have been lost within the Council other staff are still leaving as service reviews are concluded.
So the full impact of the existing cuts both implemented and planned have yet to be fully experienced.
Whilst some are publicly visible, such as the closure of local amenities, others are hidden such as support for vulnerable people in their homes but these are just as damaging to the community.
The Con/Dem cuts in the years prior up to and including 2014/15 have been on a massive scale which have led to fewer services, less support for vulnerable people, high job losses and even greater pressure on Council staff trying to best deliver services in very difficult circumstances.
This budget position will be largely unchanged for the next years budget 2014/2015.
The service cuts already determined will go ahead as planned the following year.
While there are still yet further Government cuts in Manchester planned for 2014/15 the Council leadership believe there will not be a need for any significant further cuts in services or in the level of jobs above those already decided upon for 2014/15.
However the Con Dem Government is intent on a further Comprehensive Spending Review from 2015/16 with potentially further drastic consequences for public services including local government and Manchester in particular.
Whilst confirmed figures will not be available until December 2014 or later the Council believes on the basis of Information current projections for 2015/16 are that the Government intends to cut Manchester’s support grant by 13% through a direct cash cut of over £50 million on top of all the previous budget cuts.
There may also be further pressure on the budget for 2015/16 in regards to the effects of inflation and costs due to demographic changes within the city which the Government will not fund. The amount involved is estimated at up to a further £15 million.
Therefore if the Government continue with its intentions Manchester could effectively have its budget cut in 2015/16
by up to £65 million in real terms.
This would be devastating in terms of the effects on the city, our communities and staff who provide essential services which are already under great pressure.
There is no electoral mandate for this scale of cuts whatsoever.
Independent economists latest estimates show tax avoidance/evasion is costing the UK economy approximately £70 billion per annum (probably higher).
This would wipe out the entire ‘deficit’ in less than 3 years without the need to cut any public services.
Politically determined cuts on the scale proposed have nothing to do with any need for “austerity” and everything to so with an attack on society.
Nothing alluding to this torching of public services and the devastation being inflicted on Manchester was ever suggested in either the Tory or Lib Dem general election manifesto.
The scale of this further attack led by the Tories could never take place without the willing support of the Liberal Democrats.
There is a political price to be paid for such a gratuitous assault and that has been already reflected in Manchester.
There are currently no Tory Councillors in Manchester and none have been elected since 1996.
However at the last General Election there were 33 Liberal Democrat Manchester Councillors.
The creation of the Coalition and all the attacks since for which no one had an electoral mandate has seen political consequences.
In 2011 12 Lib/ Dem councillors were up for election in Manchester. All 12 seats were lost.
Exactly the same thing happened in 2012 when a further 12 Lib Dem seats up for election were also all lost.
There were no Council elections in Manchester in 2013.
The remaining 9 Lib Dem seats are due for election in 2014 and if the proposed scale of the Tory / Lib Dem attacks on Manchester continue it will be interesting to see the view of Manchester people at that time.
At a Government level the sheer scale of the attack on our public services proposed from April 2015 is bound to be a major factor in the General Election which is due to take place just a few weeks thereafter.
The campaign against the Government attacks on Manchester and in particular the vandalism proposed for 2015/16 by what may hopefully be an outgoing government must be intensified.
Our members and the people of Manchester have an early opportunity to protest against the government at the TUC demonstration on Sunday 29th September which is the first day of the Tory Conference in our city whose services they are hell bent on further destroying.
All are welcome to join the demonstration which will assemble on Liverpool Road / Deansgate at 11am and which will be led by UNISON and which is also focused on defending our NHS.
UNISON will play its part in a campaign together with the Council, service users and the wider Manchester community to try and move the Government to alter its proposals and in particular the planned attacks on Manchester in 2015/16.
But whatever future we face, whilst still working co-operatively with Council on agreed policies such as mpeople to try and respond as well as possible to the challenges we will all face, UNISON will take action if necessary to ensure there are no compulsory redundancies and no cuts in terms and conditions or protection arrangements.
To deliver that our UNISON Branch must be as strong as possible and that means having the highest trade union membership density achievable so that we can continue to have a strong and effective voice in representing the majority of Council workers.
Unity is strength is a truth, not a slogan.
Recruitment must be a top priority for all in our Branch
Every member is urged to encourage anyone not already in a trade union to consider joining UNISON to both protect their own interest in the difficult times ahead but also to ensure that together we have maximum collective strength both in negotiations and in taking action should that be necessary.
UNISON will update members on any developments as and when clear information becomes available and will report any further developments.