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Bolton council workers denounce huge cuts
Unison members working for Bolton council lobbied the council executive on Monday 24 January, because it was meeting to accept the proposals being put forward by directors for cuts in the coming years.
Andy Thomas, Bolton Unison (personal capacity) and Robert Mitchell, South Lancs Socialist Party
Around 100 people turned up and were making loads of noise and showing their disdain for the executive. We then went into the town hall to hear the cuts plans.
The news about Bolton council's budget for the next two years, which was delivered with a colourful Powerpoint presentation to a room of dispassionate-looking councillors was unsurprisingly very grim.
In accordance with the government cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review, to balance its books the council says it is having to cut £60 million out of its spending over the next two years.
That's roughly 25% of its controllable budget, and this at a time when there are rising costs in terms of inflation, and increases in the numbers of looked-after adults and children in the district.
The cuts will be frontloaded - an estimated £42 million in 2011/12 and 19 million in 2012/13. By that point we wonder if there will be much left to cut! However, the four year forecast was for cuts of an estimated £90 million.
The council spoke of the need for a 'robust' and 'pragmatic' policy to implement the cuts and talked vaguely about 'protecting the most vulnerable', but the underlying reality of all this is massive job losses across the board, tougher conditions for those who remain in work and a huge reduction in quality of services for service users.
Services will be 'downsized', multiple social welfare programmes will simply be abolished, such as the Working Neighbourhood Funds. Children's Services is one of the areas hardest hit.
In terms of jobs lost - the Director of Corporate Resources was trying to talk around the issue with the usual jargon of 'voluntary redundancy', 'vacant posts' and 'redeployment' - but the bleak reality which he ultimately had to concede was that one way or another 600-1,000 jobs would go over the next 15 months.
In the next few days roughly 1,300 council employees will receive letters informing them that their jobs are at risk.
The meeting ended with chants of 'Con-Dems Out' from the lobby. We don't know how the council is going to progress with the cuts but we do know that we are going to fight with everything we have.
Forthcoming protests include:
5th February: Bolton Libraries Campaign protest, 11-1pm Bolton library
12th February: Leafleting against the cuts, 11-1pm Fred Dibnah statue
14th February: Lobby of council executive, 2.45pm town hall