'Misery' as council axes 1,500 jobs
Union leaders have warned that plans by a county council to axe 1,500 jobs over the next three years because of cuts in Government funds will pile "misery" into a recession-hit region.
Unison said vital services will be hit because of cutbacks at Somerset County Council aimed at tackling a £75 million deficit.
Ken Maddock, leader of the Tory-controlled council, said the authority will have to cut back many of its services and make compulsory redundancies.
He said: "We will have to deal with losing 1,500 posts at this council over the next three years. We will have to stop almost all our major building projects, including a new school, children centre, and pedestrianisation scheme."
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Job losses on this scale will hit the people of Somerset hard, scaling back vital community services, and hitting spending power.
"Cutting most new building projects will only make the dole queues longer. The jobs market is tough enough. People will struggle to find work elsewhere. This council is obsessed with freezing council tax, and this has added to the deficit."
Unison said the announcement was the latest in a "long line" of job cuts in councils across the country in recent weeks, including 3,000 at Nottingham County Council, 1,400 in Lincolnshire and 500 in Bolton.
Mr Prentis said: "There is an alternative to the mantra of cuts. America is keeping up spending to boost recovery and stave off the dreaded double dip. Unison is committed to protecting jobs and services. The ideological choice to cut the deficit hard and fast is causing misery to hundreds of thousands of people who work in and rely on public services."
Unison pointed out that latest unemployment figures for the South West showed 165,000 (6.1%) people were already out of work.
The council's workforce stands at around 6,500 but this is expected to fall to around 5,000, said Mr Maddock. The council also announced there would be no increase in council tax for a second year in 2011.