A CALL has been made for Redditch borough council to ‘make representations’ to central government over cuts to its local government grant.
The authority has lost some £7million in Whitehall money in the last few years due to government austerity measures.
It is now scrambling to fill a yawning £1.2million hole in its finances and last week was served with a ‘Section 24’ warning urging it to sort out the debt crisis.
This week regional union officers Sharon Harding from Unite, Kim Wright from the GMB and Steve Akers from Unison met with the council’s chief executive Kevin Dicks and finance director Jayne Pickering to discuss the issue and the impact it could have on the workforce and council services.
“We have appealed to the council not to look at outsourcing but to maintain services in-house, and against redundancies other than voluntary,” said Mr Akers.
Council Leader Councillor Matt Dormer, speaking on the Redditch Standard podcast (https://redditchstandard.co.uk/podcasts/) has already ruled out compulsory redundancies but warned council tax rises could be to the maximum allowed – 2.9 per cent – after limiting it to just 2.2 per cent last year.
Mr Akers said there was a case for taking the increase even higher.
“Looking at the profile of Redditch, it has less of a council tax take but a higher demand for council tax services.
“In terms of the preservation of services in Redditch there is a debate to be had on whether they go beyond 2.99 per cent by going to a referendum and asking residents what they think.
“We would encourage the council to put this to the people to see if it’s something they would support to maintain services rather than enduring cuts.
“Every 0.1 per cent that went beyond 2.99 per cent is helping to preserve services.”
Band D householders currently pay about £5 a week for Redditch borough services.
Mr Akers and Ms Harding also urged the authority to engage more in sponsorship and commercial operations, take on permanent staff rather than rely on expensive agency staff and to make more savings in procurement.
“We are engaging with the authority to mitigate and minimise any cuts to services and impact on our members and our message to the leadership is it would help immeasurably if they addressed what their priorities are in maintaining services,” said Mr Akers.