I am the chair of Nottingham City UNISON Branch.
2) What is this dispute about? How many people are facing job loses?
The City Council has stated that they will have a £20 million shortfall in their 2009/10 budget. Having identified various “efficiency” savings, the Council states they still need to save £12 million, which will mean around 400 people being made redundant. No details about what sort of jobs are at risk has yet been released to the trade unions, but the Council has talked about “back room” jobs being mainly at risk.
3) Is this connected to the £42 million the city council lost after the collapse of the Icelandic banking system?
The Council is adamant that the problems in the 2009/10 budget are not connected to the Iceland situation. However, it has been flagged up that the effects of Iceland will be felt in future years.
4) What have Jon Collins, Jane Todd et al been saying about the situation?
The Council has claimed that the global recession, inflation, falling revenues and the need for increased spending on child protection and vulnerable adults, are to blame.
UNISON would not dispute these factors have caused budgetary difficulties for all local authorities and we have invited the City Council to jointly campaign with us for more money from central government. There’s plenty of money swilling about in the economy – £600 billion to underwrite the banks for example – and a fraction of that could help hard-pressed councils out of difficulty.
However, some of the things the Council has spent its money on, make our members’ blood boil! Take the £12 million spent on engaging consultants in the last year. That sum equates to exactly the amount of money the Council wants to save by sacking 400 of its staff. Or the £½ million spent on paying off the last three chief executives, as well as 30% pay-rises for corporate directors last year, taking their annual pay up to £140,000. Then there is the £450,000 spent on the play commissioned by Michael Frater (last Chief Executive) as well as the escalating costs of the money the Council is putting towards the private Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery.
5) What’s been the response of council workers?
Council workers are extremely angry and anxious about this situation, particularly in the current economic climate with no jobs to go to. And neither can the City Council afford to delete 400 jobs. Many services are already overstretched and in a recession there is likely to be more demand for council services not less.
6) What happened at Tuesday's protest?
Our protest yesterday, organised by the 3 main council unions (UNISON, GMB and Unite) was a very successful first step in our campaign to defeat these job cuts. Around 200 staff protested outside the Council headquarters.
7) Where do you think the campaign will and/or should go next? Are we likely to see strike action?
We will step up our campaign over the next few weeks, and further protests will take place. Industrial action has to be considered alongside other ways of defeating the Council’s plans.
UNISON is also seeking more information about the Council’s finances, because for a public organisation they are quite secretive. We have put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, for full details of expenditure on consultants. The Council needs to have a good reason for spending £12 million in this area, at the time when they also say that £12 million must be saved, meaning 400 people must lose their jobs.