This morning, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, launches his anti-poverty strategy at MediaCityUK (!*), with the words of Salford City UNISON branch secretary, Steven North, ringing in his ears...
"The Council's and the Mayor's commitment to oppose austerity has to start with a budget that recognises the poverty and insecurity our city faces and which ensures that the welfare of the people is genuinely the highest law" he says "Anti-austerity cannot just mean words – it has to mean action."
Salford's Joint Trade Unions, made up of Salford UNISON, GMB, Unite and the NUT, are to oppose £3.728million of Salford City Council's proposed £15.8million cuts...
"There are certain proposals that we cannot support and that we are asking the City Council to remove from the proposed 2017/18 Budget" state the unions "We believe these proposals would not only be of great detriment to our members and to the people of Salford; but that they are also unnecessary given the resources that Salford City Council has at its disposal."
The controversial plans to shut The Grange, Salford's only home for disabled children, is opposed, in line with a campaign by parents and families launched this week (see previous Salford Star article – click here)...
"Having met with our members, we remain opposed to this proposal" the unions state "We do not feel it is in the interests of either the staff or service users and their families for The Grange to close."
The unions are also opposing £140,000 cuts to Health Improvement Services, left over from last year's budget... "This is a front line service that has lost over £500,000 in the last few years. It is a preventative service that supports the health and wellbeing of the people of Salford and it has a vital role to play in preventing greater costs in looking after people in the future."
While recognising the "more productive" attitude towards the unions by the Council and City Mayor, Paul Dennett, compared to previous Mayor, Ian Stewart (who labelled all those who challenged him `extremists'), the unions state: "The City Council declares its opposition to austerity and its commitment to improving social care. We have presented counter-proposals that are entirely legal and which if adopted, would show that declaration to be true."
The unions have drawn up an "entirely legal", fully costed set of budget counter-proposals. They believe that over £2.5million identified by the Council in 'savings' and 'efficiencies' in the budget should be re-invested into services for youth and to stem what Salford UNISON branch secretary, Steven North, calls "the appalling crisis in social care", and to improve conditions for its commissioned care workers, including provision that guarantees them the Living Wage.
The unions are also urging the Council to use some of its £13million reserves to suspend 'savings' on moving towards digital, as opposed to human, dealings with residents...
"Many of the proposed digital solutions may not even be legally or technically possible" the unions state "and we haven't received a comprehensive assessment of how capacity can be created within this service area."
Meanwhile, a Council Tax rise of 4.99% is being proposed, which includes a 3% rise to go towards protecting adult social care. Police and Fire Council Tax charges will also rise by 3.18% and 1.99% respectively, giving an overall increase of £49.89 for Band A properties and £74.83 for Band D.
The Council explains in its budget report that "in drawing up a balanced budget, members have been made aware of the consequences of their decisions upon residents, services and jobs."
The Council's capital budget for 2017-18 includes almost £27million of 'unsupported borrowing' towards projects like the RHS Garden in Worsley (£7.2million); Media City and Salford Quays (£417,000); 'Regeneration Related Project Costs' (£2.325million); 'City Centre Salford' (£1.09million), additional car parking space at the Civic Centre (£167,000) and a 'Lowry Investment' of £274,000.
Following the Council's initial details of the cuts a 'phase two' consultation was launched with the city's population of over 200,000 people. Just 82 people filled in the on-line form, 46 people responded via social media, only two responded by email, and only nine people in total attended ten face-to-face sessions at community venues... "The attendance at these sessions was lower than anticipated" the Council understates in its budget report.
It is anticipated that there will be a lobby of the Labour Group on the evening of Monday 20th February and at the full Salford Council cuts meeting on Wednesday 22nd, particularly by families and their supporters opposed to the closure of The Grange.
*See previous Salford Star article: Salford Mayor to Launch Anti-Poverty Strategy at Posh Salford Quays – click here
For full details of all the cuts see previous Salford Star article – click here