UNISON South West today warned that the proposed loss of a further 828 Bristol City Council jobs this year could be putting key services in jeopardy.
According to Gavin Brooks, UNISON’s South West regional organiser, the union “are not aware of any service that could sustain the degree of cuts that they’re talking about and still maintain the delivery that people expect of those services.”
This is the latest development in a story that began last August, when Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees revealed plans to cut 1,000 city council jobs in a bid to fill a £60m hole in the authority’s budget.
The aim was to offer voluntary redundancy to staff, with the target to cut 1,000 jobs – a sixth of the council’s workforce – by the end of the financial year in April.
But only approximately 300 of the 1,000 proposed redundancies were made, leaving 828 jobs that still have to go this year – job losses that this time around may be compulsory.
If these 828 jobs do go, on top of the 300 redundancies last year and previous reductions in the years before, Gavin estimates that the council will have lost roughly a third of its staff as compared to five years ago.
The result of this, he warns, could be that the delivery of certain services is at risk – with services such as libraries, children’s centres, and care particularly vulnerable.
Gavin said: “Because this comes on top of many years worth of cuts pretty much every service the council provides is stretched to breaking point and it wouldn’t take very much from any particular service to see it really potentially collapse.”
“We know that there are particular pinch points such as care… there’s an increasing demand for those services and any cut you put in just stretches that resource further still, so we’d have big concerns around service provision within care.”
The council job cuts have come at a time when several very prominent projects, such as MetroBus and Bristol Arena, are running over-budget – something that may lead to questions about the council’s financial decision-making.
In fact MetroBus and Bristol Arena jointly are estimated to be approximately £40m over budget – a figure far in excess of the £29m savings projected from the initial round of 1,000 planned redundancies.
“We cannot close the gap without reducing the number of jobs at the council”
Speaking last August, Mayor Rees defended the cuts saying: “I have inherited a huge financial challenge which is proving bigger than we knew even a month or two ago. ”
“We continue to make savings in many ways, but we cannot close the gap without reducing the number of jobs at the council.”