THE largest union at Coventry City Council have urged councillors to set a ‘no cuts’ budget later this month – when it will stage a protest.
UNISON is instead calling for united opposition to government funding cuts to local councils, saying enough is enough.
The union’s officials say the city needs to be defended from any more cuts to services.
Among cuts proposals are changes to the library service – including closing Allesley Park and Willenhall libraries in their current buildings, play centres at Eagle Street and Edgewick Park, public toilets, and around 1000 more job losses.
UNISON, which represents thousands of council workers in the city, is also calling on councillors to use part of the £80million plus of financial reserves – a figure disputed by the council – to hold off cuts and instead “build a national campaign to win more money for local services”.
The union also urges using low interest-rate prudential borrowing to plug a financial blackhole to avoid cuts, as a “short-term measure”.
A full council meeting of councillors will set the Budget for the 2016/7 financial year (which starts in April) next Tuesday, February 23.
Unions and other protesters will gather for a demonstration outside the Council House in Earl Street, on Coventry city centre, at 1pm, and are calling on the public to attend.
As we reported yesterday, the Budget proposals also include the largest Council Tax rise for years – at 3.9 per cent – meaning Coventry citizens will again be paying more for fewer services.
A total of £500,000 a year will go towards creating the West Midlands Combined Authority under Labour councillors’ Budget plans.
The council is also forecasting income from the government’s New Homes bonus of over £2million by 2018/9 – as a reward for building more homes.
It comes amid controversial plans for building on the Green belt. The Labour council has since 2010 declined to take the money from the New Homes bonus, previously pledging to voters there would be no new homes of Green Belt or green fields.
Labour council leaders say the Council Tax hike is necessary to protect the most vulnerable and raise revenue for adult social care.
UNISON Branch Secretary Sarah Feeney said: “Coventry people can’t take any more cuts. We are urging our Labour council to set a legal no-cuts budget, and to say no more cuts.
“As a council we have millions in reserves that can buy us time to campaign for more money from central government.
“It is not right that ordinary people in Coventry, whether they be part of the council workforce or users of our vital public services pay the price for more austerity.
“We urge councillors to do the right thing and hold off the cuts, whilst building the fight for more resources for our city. This is part of UNISON’s national campaign to win a fair deal for local government.”
Coventry council leaders say one-off spending to stave off cuts for one year is no solution, as savings need to plug the gap between income and expenditure year-on-year.