WIGAN Council is making ‘double’ the level of cuts needed to meet Government targets, it was claimed today.
Wendy Allison, regional organiser for the biggest local authority workers’ union Unison, spoke out as the council approved plans to reduce the budget by a further £24.2m over 2012/13.
She warned that any further redundancies could result in litigation because the union don’t accept that the council has made the necessary economic case for driving them through. But council Leader Lord Smith said: “As I explained in my budget statement, not only are the figures wrong and misleading but also why we needed to accelerate the savings.
“In 2013 Wigan is likely to be hit a financial storm of more grant reductions and increased costs.
“We have chosen to prepare now so we will not have to make deep deep cuts next year.”
Unison’s calculations show that it would cost £277.179,000 to run services across Wigan without any cut from last year’s budget.
The Government’s grant/borrowing settlement for Wigan this year is £265,939,000, leaving a shortfall of £11,240,000 but with £11.241m now due to be paid into reserves and £1.760m “unaccounted for” in the three year financial plan document
They therefore claim that the budget cuts of £24.2m for the next financial year are £12.96m more than required.
For 2013/14 the council’s budget cuts of £18.7m, are £15.385m more than required, they say.
Ms Allison said: “Unison understands that the Government has forced local councils to make swingeing cuts to their budgets. We have tried to work constructively with councils to minimise the impact this has on services and on our members and their families.
“But the cuts proposed in Wigan for the next two financial years massively exceed the requirement through grant reduction from central Government, with the excess going into reserves or contingencies.”
She said no other local authority in the North West was taking such drastic measures – Wigan was setting aside £15m over the next three years “without knowing whether these contingencies are needed.”
Ms Allison insisted: “The sensible option is not to squirrel money away for a rainy day when it is already pouring.”
Almost 500 staff posts were removed during the last financial year.