Union issues bleak warning over looming Norfolk council cuts

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON.

Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk county secretary for UNISON. - Credit: Supplied

Union leaders have warned that making £182m of cuts to Norfolk County Council will 'cut into the bone' of the services the authority provides to vulnerable people.

Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for UNISON at County Hall, said the stark warning of impending cuts, issued by council leader George Nobbs yesterday, would be a further blow to the morale to staff.

Mr Nobbs had said 'tough choices' would have to be made to plug the multi-million pound funding gap at Norfolk County Council over the next three years.

The Labour leader had warned he could not promise jobs would be safe and that frontline services would escape unscathed because of the shortfall.

Officers said their estimates of the gap the council was facing had increased by £38m, from the previous estimate of £144m, following last month's spending review.


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The cuts which will be needed will come on the back of £140m which has been saved over the past three years following the previous Conservative administration's Big Conversation and which has seen a swathe of cuts and 1,600 jobs shed.

And Mr Dunning said the latest round of cuts would only cause more uncertainty to a workforce which is already struggling to provide services against a backdrop of less funding.

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He said: 'The former council leader Derrick Murphy has said if we were asked to cut any more that would be cutting into the bone, rather than the flesh, and I don't think we can argue against that.

'UNISON are campaigning nationally and locally against the austerity measures, but this government seems to be obsessed with cutting into the bone.

'What this will mean to us is far from obvious at the moment, but my view is that it will lead to a wholesale cessation of vital services and even more pressure on those the council contracts from, particularly in the voluntary sector. It is going to be dire.'

While some of the jobs which have been lost at County Hall have been transferred - such as to the council's arms length company Norse - there have been hundreds of redundancies.

And with the spectre of further job losses hanging over council staff, Mr Dunning said: 'I think morale is pretty low. We had a staff survey after the last set of cuts and that found staff wanted to work for the council but that it was difficult to focus on things when you don't know if you'll still have your job in a few month's time.'

Paul Brittain, the council's head of finance, has said the authority needs to save £73.2m in 2014/15, £53.1m in 2015/16 and £55.7m in 2016/17.

Mr Nobbs has said he will put a number of options before the public and ask them to get involved in deciding how to plug the gap.

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