Challenge to spend ‘spare’ cash

UNION bosses are calling on Wigan Council to dip into its coffers rather than axe as many jobs as it plans to.

Staff representative Unison points out that the local authority has £30m in reserves and should be reducing the impact of government cuts by drawing on this as it bids to balance its budget.

The council’s leader Lord Smith this week revealed that up to 858 posts - the equivalent of 696 full-time jobs - could be lost in the coming 12 months to add to the 300 already axed.

Today he said that some of the reserves were needed for equal pay claims that are still being processed. And he added that there are further tough budgets to come in the years after the next one which would be even harder to address without any reserves at all.

However Keith Bradley, Unison regional organiser, said “There are significant amounts of income that the council are choosing to ignore in setting their budget which potentially could offset the proposed redundancies in Children’s and Adult Services.”

Lord Smith responded: “We need to keep some money over the next few years because there are still job evaluations and equal pay claims to come through and we expect to pay out significant amounts of money.

“Over the next two to three years the money will be used in a proper way. We have told the union this before. If we spend it all now we would only find ourselves in exactly the same situation next year only without any reserves.”

But Mr Bradley said that the council was able to borrow money from the Government to cover the costs of equal pay claims and that other money is coming in from the health service.

He added: “Unison is committed to working with the council to secure the best possible outcome for our members and the residents of Wigan but we need to be convinced that the council has the will to work with us and protect services for the most vulnerable in our community.

“I will be consulting with our members regarding these proposals and at this stage I cannot rule out industrial action.”