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Council cuts deepen in 2012

Kate Belgrave's essential survey of upcoming local government budget cuts

Over the next three months, councils around the country will begin to agree budgets for 2012. The agreement of these budgets – and the service cuts they entail – will mark the start of the second year of appalling cuts to local government services.

Adult care services, children’s care services, daycentres for people with disabilities, daycentres for the elderly, respite carehomes, libraries, youth centres, youth offices, children’s homes – vital local government services took massive hits around the country in 2011. More will go as the government’s slashing of local government grants continues.

I’m drawing up a list of proposed council cuts around the country, job losses expected and council meetings where cuts proposals will be agreed over the next few months (have also pointed out privatisation threats here and there). Generally, council budgets are agreed in February and March at full council meetings.

Points to note: specifics seem harder to come by than last year. There’s a lot of rhetoric in council documents about departments having to cut costs, but less about actual services that will be lost or shut. That may be because the cuts proposed on those lists drew a lot of lightning last year. When councils named the libraries, day centres, and care homes they planned to cut, people publicised that information and organised campaigns around them. It’s a lot harder to campaign around general statements about reducing budgets. Anti-cuts activists are accusing councils of caginess and they have a point. More on that as things develop.

Job losses will be a real problem. Unemployment is already climbing and estimates show that councils are expecting to make thousands more people redundant this year, often in parts of the country least able to cope (national unemployment is highest in the north east of England, where both the public and private sectors are shedding jobs). That is not good news, with the jobless rate over eight percent already. In the north east of England, unemployment is over 11%.

Another point worth noting is that a lot of councils are (almost pointedly) running public consultation exercises on cuts – they’re crowdsourcing views on services to slash. This may because councils were subject to public and legal pressure last year for failing to consult service users about cuts proposals. It’s probably also a useful way to diffuse anger about cuts – the more a council meets and talks with people, the more often it can ram home the “we have no choice except to cut” line.

Will be adding details for more councils, and adding and changing numbers as things become clearer and more information becomes available.


Barnet council:
Our favourite mass-privatising council plans to cut another £43m from budgets by reducing services and introducing higher parking charges, among other initiatives. The linked story says the council will cut £14.5m from adult social care and £9.5m from children’s services.

No matter, presumably, that the council found £750m in 2011 to engage a private partner in a “support and customer services project.” That project will see a private company (possibly Capita) delivering services like council estates, finance, human resources, information systems, procurement, revenues and benefits and project management services. No matter either that hard-hitting reports last year asked serious questions about Barnet council’s ability to manage procurement processes and relationships with the private sector. Look for private companies to do very well out of Barnet council this year. There has always been plenty of money at Barnet council for those who need it least.

Budget cut for 2012: £43m (might be spread over several years)
Job losses: The council says 100. Unison says many more than that if the council pursues its plans to mass-outsource services.
Threatened services: Services across the council, including adult social care and children’s services.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Possibly full council meeting January 24 2012.


Birmingham City Council:
The council is consulting on cuts it wants to make to achieve £65m reductions in its 2012-13 budget. The BBC is reporting that could mean the loss of up to 1200 jobs- which would be disastrous for Birmingham. The story says that nearly 2500 jobs were lost in 2011. Major job (and therefore service) losses are expected in areas including A&C home care, CYPF children’s homes, adult social care residential homes and adoption and fostering, according to Birmingham Unison.

The proposed budget will go before cabinet on 13 February and full council on 28 February.

Budget cut for 2012: £65m
Job losses: 1200
Threatened services: Services across the council, including home care, children’s homes and residential homes.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: 28 February 2012 at full council meeting.


Bradford council:
One to watch closely. This confusing story suggests that the council intends to both protect and cut frontline services in adult social care. The council says that cuts of £31m will be required to balance books. The story says that departments like adult and community services and children and young people’s services are among those likely to be cuts.

About 600 job losses are expected. Council leader Ian Greenwood says it would be dishonest to say those job losses won’t affect services (and he’s right. It would be). Consultation on proposals (full list here) lasts until 7 February 2012 and the budget will be decided at a full council meeting on Thursday 23 February 2012.

Budget cut for 2012: £31m
Job losses: 600
Threatened services: Across the council.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: 23 February 2012 at full council meeting.


Bristol city council:
Bristol is consulting on £21m in jobs and services to be cut from April 2012. Anticuts groups say that the council is releasing the bare minimum of information and disguising plans. Battlegrounds this year will include council plans to close or privatise care homes and day centres for the elderly (there’s a list of threatened centres at the end of this post) and to cut £1m from the youth services budget. Job losses of 350 are being touted. Bristol city council will finalise cuts decisions at a full council meeting on 28 February 2012.

Budget cut 2012: £21m
Job losses: 350
Threatened services: youth services, services for the elderly
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting, 28 February 2012


Bury council (h-t @rapunzellet)
The Manchester Evening News reports that libraries could shut, highways maintenance suffer and leisure centres, youth services and services for the elderly may take hits “as town hall chiefs bring in ‘savage’ cuts try to save £32m.”

There is a more detailed cuts documents here. It probably takes the prize for evasiveness. It talks about making savings by ”realising efficiencies in older people’s care homes, learning disability services and assessment and care management, reducing demand/need for care services due to the introduction of the reablement service,” and so on. “Efficiencies” generally means staff and service cuts. Job losses are not quantified – council documents merely say that staff have taken voluntary redundancies.

Budget cut 2012: £32m (2012-2015)
Job losses: Not specified, but redundancies have been taken.
Threatened services: Services for the elderly, libraries, highway maintenance.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting, 22 February 2012


An oddly upbeat budget consultation document tells us that Cumbria county council has plenty to spend on capital projects this year (£114m), but must reduce the revenue budget by £19.6m (which will raise again the old questions of council funding structures and spending priorities). It is consulting on two “projects” in particular to improve the books – increasing residential parking charges and decreasing the subsidies it pays for people who use adult social care.

In other words, it is looking to increase charges for care. The council will (and does) argue that it will aim these charges at those who can afford them: over here, we argue that this trend for charging elderly people and people with disabilities for care makes adequate care more and more difficult for people to access.

Budget cut for 2012: £19.6m
Job losses: Cagey this year. About 600 jobs were lost in 2011 and the council says budget pressures after this year will intensify. It follows that further job losses will be unavoidable.
Threatened services: Adult social care.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Full council meeting 16 or 23 February 2012.


Unison will ballot staff for strike action over Doncaster council’s plans to cut pay by four percent for all non-school staff earning more than £15000.

Overtime pay and monetary long service awards will also be withdrawn. Doncaster council has already made 1000 job cuts since it began implementing austerity measures.

Budget cut for 2012: £30m

Consultation about cuts is ongoing. Closing date for the consultation is 20 January 2012.


Dorset county council
Forget talk of southern councils doing well out of local government grants. They certainly did better than northern councils, but the service cuts ideology still thrives in the south. DCC will pursue cuts of £5.6m in 2012 and aim save a further £15.2m (which may mean cuts as well).

This story says that other savings include a review and restructure of mental health services to younger people and disabled and elderly people (there are many elderly people in Dorset) are likely to be hit with a proposed reduction in concessionary fares.

Budget cut 2012: £5.6m (+£15.2m in savings?)
Job losses: Unclear, but 500 were at risk in 2011.
Threatened services: youth services, services for the elderly
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting, February 2012


Gateshead council
A right mess, particularly on the potential job loss front. The councils says it needs to save £38m over the next two years. It has just finished (13 January) a public consultation on cuts proposals which cutting adult social care provision, outsourcing leisure and cultural services and cutting community safety grants.

Job losses are a real worry. This story says 450 jobs are due to be cut by April this year. It also says that 2500 staff have been issued with 90-day redundancy notices – an extraordinary number if that is correct. With unemployment in the north east closing in on 12%, even 450 redundancies will have appalling fallout. Jobs in the private sector are also disappearing – the Rio Tinto aluminium smelter in Lynemouth is due to close with the loss of more than 500 jobs. Combined with the council’s immediate job losses, that’s about 1000 jobs gone right there.

Budget cut 2012: £38m
Job losses: At least 450.
Threatened services: Adult care, community safety services.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting, 1 March 2012


Leicester city council:
More than 200 jobs will be lost as the council cuts £20m from this year’s budget. The council is sticking to plans to cut a total of £70m from its £500m annual budget over three years.

The linked story says that about “70 jobs are likely to be axed in children’s services – including staff who help to reduce teen pregnancies and those who work with young offenders. Along with other efficiency savings in the department, this could cut £4m from next year’s budget” – in a much-needed areas like children’s services, too.

The cuts to be announced this month will apparently involve on elderly people’s homes and care for the vulnerable.

Budget cut 2012: £20m
Job losses: 200+
Threatened services: children’s services, youth services, services for the elderly
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting on 26 January (tbc)


Liverpool city council:
There will be a public council meeting (and protest) on 18 January to decide which services must go as £50m is cut from budgets this year. £31m in savings were approved in November. Proposals include reducing budgets for the teenage pregnancy service and parent partnership service which helps families with disabled children. Children’s centres will be subject to a review of posts to make savings.

There’s a list of cuts proposals here.

Budget cut 2012: £50m
Job losses: Still looking for information.
Threatened services: Many
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: 18 January 2012 at council meeting.


The council is “consulting” with residents about services to cut as the authority looks to make a further £14m in service and job cuts in 2012. More than 100 jobs are due to be lost (which will be a real problem. Middlesbrough already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country). Cuts proposals include closing two youth and community centres, cutting street warden posts, closing the mobile library service and closing the dial a ride service. You can see a full list of service cuts proposals here (pdf).

Budget cut 2012: £14m
Job losses: 100+
Threatened services: youth services, community services
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting on March 5


Newcastle is consulting on a very wide range of proposed cuts: the full list (out for consultation until ) is here. The consultation runs until 15 February 2012. Cabinet will meet on 22 February to look at responses and the council will meet to agree the budget on 7 March 2012.

Proposals include rationalising services for people with disabilities, taking wardens out of sheltered housing and replacing them with a telecare alarm system (seen that one before. Residents hate it – they prefer having an onsite warden they can talk to and who regularly checks that residents are okay), and capping high-cost care packages. There are some very nasty proposals in here.

Budget cut 2012: £30m.
Job losses: Approximately 360.
Threatened services: A wide range of council services.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting on March 7
Budget at a glance (including cuts total and job cuts estimates).


North Tyneside
Another council chasing the mass-outsourcing carrot. According to this story, North Tyneside will cut budgets by £17m this year. About 300 jobs are expected to go.

In this story, Mayor Linda Arkley implies other council workers may expect transfer to private companies in the near future. Councillors have been on fact-finding missions to “see how other authorities coped with privatising services ranging from highways maintenance and street lighting to the collecting of council tax and other bills.”

“As a result of the changes to local authority funding, our financial environment is undergoing a radical change over the next three years, with the emphasis for financial planning now shifting more towards savings and efficiencies, close control of costs, a focus on our priorities and new ways of working,” Mayor Arkley is reported as saying. In the same article, opposition councillors rightly point out that “the only way for the private sector to save money is to either offer lower wages or use fewer staff”.

Budget cut 2012: £17m.
Job losses: Approximately 300, although possibly more if services are outsourced.
Threatened services: A wide range of council services.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting March 2012
Budget consultation pages


Sheffield council
A scene of tension. According to this story, 690 jobs will be lost across the council as it looks to save more than £50m in the coming financial year.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for finance Bryan Lodge is quoted saying that the cuts will go “deeper and further into the council.”

The Star report says that redundant roles will include enforcement officers, manual workers and clerical staff, as well as managers.

The council is running a consultation exercise on cuts, although you won’t learn much from the Standing Up For Sheffield corporate strategy document it links to. Lots of PR-speak and not a lot of detail.

Budget cut 2012: £50m
Job losses: 690
Threatened services: Services across the council.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting, 9 March 2012.


Stoke on Trent:
At the end of last year, Stoke on Trent City Council announced plans to cuts budgets by £24m in 2012. Threatened services in this report include day centres and respite care for the elderly and disabled.

More than 360 jobs are expected to be lost. There is a list of proposed cuts in the consultation document on this page.

Budget cut 2012: £21-24m
Job losses: 360+
Threatened services: Care services for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting on February 2 (tbc).


Expect another important year at Southampton – where Southampton local government’s very well-organised Unison branch will take the council on over its plans to cut about 220 jobs as part of £15m budget cuts in 2012. Unions are battling another serious threat at Southampton – the council’s plans to mass-outsource services and redefine itself as a commissioning council - a council that buys all services in from the private sector.

Budget cut 2012: £15m
Job losses: 220 (expect that number to rise if services are outsourced and private providers begin to “streamline” or “rationalise” resources, or look to make “efficiencies.” All those words mean job cuts.
Threatened services: Services across the council.
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting on 15 February (tbc). Interesting that this meeting will be held in the middle of the day, rather than after hours. Makes meetings harder for people to get to.


Trafford council: (ht @rapunzellet)
A fight is brewing over cuts in Trafford – this story reports that local community leaders and local residents are objecting to council plans that could lead to the loss of 103 jobs and libraries run by volunteers.

The council says it must save £16.1m next year and it looks as though it will try to do that at least partly by replacing paid staff in libraries with volunteers. Here’s the council’s consultation page and documents on that proposal. Said community leaders and residents in a letter to councillors: “Our role is not to enable employers to make our friends, colleagues and neighbours redundant and replace them with volunteers.”

The council is also running a consultation exercise on plans to reduce adult social care costs by £5.9m. This includes plans to lower the threshold for charging for care and reducing subsidies for social care transport and meals.

Budget cut 2012: £16m
Job losses: More than 100
Threatened services: Libraries (the mobile library will be closed) and adult social care. The MEN reports that the transformation and resources department will lose £2.8m and communities and wellbeing will lose £2.8m and £6.8m respectively
Date budget and cuts to be agreed on: Council meeting 22 February 2012.

Kate Belgrave blogs on the experience of public service users facing cuts.


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