Sunday 25 February 2024
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Nottingham

Nottingham City Council staff heartbreak as strict cuts approved to services and over 550 job losses

Staff working for Nottingham City Council services say they are feeling “deflated and heartbroken” ahead of planned cuts to services and jobs.

Staff and union members staged a protest before a meeting at the Council House on Monday evening (December 18), where councillors reluctantly but unanimously approved strict spending controls after the council effectively declared bankruptcy at the end of November.

The Labour-run authority’s chief finance officer said the council would be unable to set a balanced budget by the end of the year amid a £23m budget gap.

He consequently issued a Section 114 notice, meaning all new non-essential spending will now cease.

The issuing of the notice came shortly before the council revealed it was predicting a separate £53m gap in its budget for the next financial year, starting in April 2024.

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In response the council has proposed a raft of major cuts to services, as well as the loss of 554 jobs.

The proposals prompted a protest against the cuts, with members of the GMB union, Unison and the Notts TUC gathering outside the Council House from 5pm.

Campaigners and union members protest against proposed job and service cuts outside the Council House
Campaigners and union members protest against proposed job and service cuts outside the Council House

Ndinda Kimuyu, who previously worked for the council’s adult social services, raised serious concerns over plans to close the in-house Jackdawe home care service.

The service provides home care to people living with dementia, and the closure would result in the loss of up to 46 jobs.

“This time it is much more serious,” she said.

“We’ve got so many cuts the city council wants to make. Youth services and community centres which I find are a vital place people want to go to.

“There are also cuts to jobs. The Jackdawe team. I cannot believe they want to do this.

“The reason why it is called Jackdawe is because the first gentleman they tried to help was called Jack Dawe. It is personal.

“These are really important services that need saving.”

 

Councillors in the Council House on December 18

A staff member, who has been working for the council’s adult social care services for 20 years, said: “I’m just deflated.

“I’ve spent 20 years serving the most vulnerable people in the city. In the past social care has been protected, but now they just want to go down to the bare-minimum statutory service.

“With our citizens the only thing that works is continuity. The private sector cannot provide that. It’s heartbreaking.”

During the Full Council meeting councillors accepted the chief finance officer’s Section 114 report and agreed the council takes immediate steps to mitigate the forecast £23m overspend through the implementation of a Financial Recovery Plan.

A Spend Control Policy will now remain in place until March 2025, meaning all spending must now be approved by the chief finance officer, Ross Brown, going forward.

Councillors also agreed to endorse Mr Brown’s intention to seek to secure Exceptional Financial Support from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

Council leader Cllr David Mellen (Lab) said: “The reason for our overspend in this financial year is not because we have been wasting money, or spending on things that are not important.

“Demand for our statutory services is rising, our funding from the Government has reduced in real terms each and every year. This is not just a Nottingham problem, many councils, especially those who run adults and children’s services, and cities who are the first to experience the tide of homelessness, are facing these pressures.”

Councillors blamed soaring children’s care costs which mean the authority is being held “at ransom”, and many criticised the profit of private firms who provide care to children.

Cllr Steve Battlemuch (Lab) described the current Government funding model as “idiotic”, with annual financial settlements being finalised the same month budgets must be set, leaving councils with little to no time to plan.

However, opposition members said the council’s past failings had left it unable to draw on reserves to fill the budget gaps.

Cllr Andrew Rule (Ind) said: “The council, like many authorities, finds itself facing pressures from reductions in Government funding and rising demand in adults and children’s services.

“However, where other local authorities have utilised their reserves to mitigate these pressures, the inconvenient truth is, by virtue of financial mismanagement of Robin Hood Energy and unlawful spending from the council’s Housing Revenue Account, Nottingham’s reserves are insufficient to cushion these pressures.”

Owing to the the worsening financial situation, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, said he was minded to further intervene and appoint commissioners.

The move would effectively remove power from Nottingham’s elected councillors and place it in the hands of a board of officials in a bid to speed up financial improvements.

The council, residents and other interested parties now have until January to provide representations to his plans.

On December 18, the annual local government financial settlement, outlining how much support councils will receive over the next year, was also published.

@westbridgfordwirenews Staff working for Nottingham City Council services say they are feeling “deflated and heartbroken” ahead of planned cuts to services and jobs. Staff and union members staged a protest before a meeting at the Council House on Monday evening (December 18), where councillors reluctantly but unanimously approved strict spending controls after the council effectively declared bankruptcy at the end of November. The Labour-run authority’s chief finance officer said the council would be unable to set a balanced budget by the end of the year amid a £23m budget gap. He consequently issued a Section 114 notice, meaning all new non-essential spending will now cease. The issuing of the notice came shortly before the council revealed it was predicting a separate £53m gap in its budget for the next financial year, starting in April 2024. In response the council has proposed a raft of major cuts to services, as well as the loss of 554 jobs. The proposals prompted a protest against the cuts, with members of the GMB union, Unison and the Notts TUC gathering outside the Council House from 5pm. . #nottingham #nottinghamnews #fyp #foryoupage #nottinghamcity #nottinghamcitycentre #nottinghamcitycouncil #westbridgford #notts ♬ original sound – West Bridgford Wire News

The Government has pledged a funding package of £64.1 billion, up from £60 billion the year before, including £1 billion extra for social care.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “We recognise they are facing challenges and that is why we have announced a £64 billion funding package to ensure they can continue making a difference, including through our combined efforts to level up.”

•  Nottingham: What does the city council’s financial situation mean for you?

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