Northamptonshire council cuts 'accident waiting to happen'

A union has attacked cuts proposed by Northamptonshire County Council as an "accident waiting to happen".

About 150 jobs are set to be lost as the Conservative-run authority looks to find £32m of budget savings.

Unison, which represents 2,000 staff at the council, claimed up to 64 jobs could go in the social care department, leading to staff being overworked.

The council said it had attempted to limit job losses but faced "very real funding and demand pressures".

In its budget proposals announced on Tuesday, the authority proposed to increase spending for vulnerable children and the elderly by £3.5m in each area.

The council also announced it would freeze council tax for a third year and give Northamptonshire Police £300,000.

'Austerity measures'

But Unison claimed the proposed jobs losses would impact on services.

Steve Bennett, of the union, said: "These cuts would make Northamptonshire County Council an accident waiting to happen, whether it be with the elderly or in childcare.

"Our social workers can't go on working 50 hours and having money taken off them."

He said the job losses could have been avoided if the Conservative administration had increased council tax at a "reasonable rate" each year since taking over in 2005.

Bill Parker, the council's cabinet member for finance, said the authority had tried to keep increases below the rate of inflation.

A council spokesman said it welcomed feedback on its proposals and had consulted unions.

"The council had been considering a 3.6% pay cut across the organisation but the authority is no longer proposing this option," the spokesman said.

"Instead, the council is looking at modernising terms and conditions so that the authority can make savings of up to £4m a year - £16m over the next four years.

"The council believes that what it is putting to the unions provides the best balance between protecting jobs, modernising terms and conditions and minimising the impact on staff whilst responding to the very real funding and demand pressures."

The council has an annual budget of £1.08bn and employs 9,000 staff.

The proposals will be discussed by the council in February after an eight-week public consultation.

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