On eve of the budget debate, the true tally of cutbacks at Calderdale Council: 200 jobs will go

Demo about council cuts outside Halifax town hall
Demo about council cuts outside Halifax town hall

MORE than 200 jobs are hanging in the balance today as councillors prepare to sign off their latest budget and a list of measures designed to save over £3 million.

If the Lib-Lab coalition spending plan is approved, there will be no increase in council tax this year – but the wheels will be set in motion for widespread job cuts in health, education and other services.

Conservative councillors say savings can be achieved by reducing the number of councillors from 51 to 36, merging more administrative services with Kirklees Council and putting a halt to incremental and contractual pay rises for staff.

Trade unions worried about this and future job losses are expected to lobby tonight’s meeting at Halifax Town Hall, which begins at 6pm.

One particular job under threat from the Conservative spending plan is that of Unison branch secretary Gary Firth.

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines said: “We will stop the £40,000 funding for a full-time union official by taxpayers. This would still leave 20 officials allowed time off to fulfil union duties and £80,000 given to the teachers’ unions.”

Mr Firth said similar moves were being made up and down the country but this was the first specific proposal in West Yorkshire.

He said: “The aim is to silence the council’s biggest trade union, but despite the job losses and austerity measures, we find more people are joining our union, which now represents more than 3,000 council and other public-sector employees.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have described the Conservative budget proposals as mean, spiteful and anti democratic.

They also hit out at the timing which allows no opportunity for discussion or public consultation.

“As usual, the Conservatives are not interested in informed debate about the budget, only scoring political points,” said Coun John Beacroft- Mitchell (Lib-Dem, Luddenden Foot, who has cabinet responsibility for council resources.

Labour group leader Coun Tim Swift described the Tory plans as a deliberate and unnecessary attack on hard working families.

“One of their biggest savings would come from pushing ahead quickly with cuts to council tax benefits which we have resisted because we know how much it would hurt working families on low incomes.

“Their plan to freeze pay increments would strike hardest at our lowest paid staff – including some employees who lost out when bonus schemes were scrapped just a couple of years ago,” he said.

Halifax MP Linda Riordan said the Conservative’s Budget proposals would hit hard working public sector staff in the back pocket.

“Thank goodness the Tories are not running the Council. These cynical plans, drawn up on the back of a postage stamp, should be placed in the nearest shredder.

“The message to thousands of public sector workers in Halifax and Calderdale is clear; if the Tories ran Calderdale you would not receive any pay increases, but would be asked to work even harder. You would get less for doing more.”

* Council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year.

The Local Government Association confirmed a pay freeze for 1.6 million local government employees for 2012/13.

It had been widely anticipated by councils but the GMB union said it was a “deliberate political choice” aimed at keeping council tax down.

The LGA said councils were left with little choice due to rising costs and shrinking local government funding.