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Plymouth in UNISON was devastated to be informed that Plymouth City Council will be offering another round of EVRS (a form of voluntary redundancy) to all staff this week.

“This is a kick in the teeth for a staff team of people who have worked incredibly hard to respond to a crisis not of their making. Some have been playing a vital role in keeping us safe and this is no kind of reward for their efforts”

For some reason the council is trying to work to a budget based on income assumptions made in the time before Covid19 that means a continuity of the austerity we were being told would be ended just months ago. This seems at direct odds with their so called Resurgem strategy to be an anchor employer and support the local economy out of the slump we are pitched into.

Over recent years this Authority has been very good at investing and generating income to support services but clearly that will not be possible this year so most of the savings are being focused on staff cuts. (we think about £7-8m) In an employer that is already horrendously understaffed it will mean ever more pressure on those that remain to keep services going; and that well has been gone to too many times already so it is likely that the public will see a reduction in service levels and closure of community facilities.

Its hard to know the true state of Plymouth’s budget as the estimated costs of covid19 locally range between £27 and £65m. Nationally UNISON estimate that after accounting for the additional £3.2bn the govt has pledged for local government, there is still going to be a £10bn funding gap in the current financial year across all Councils.  Govt are nowhere near recompensing councils for the extra costs caused by Covid19, and actually the amount of lost income is a bigger figure than the extra costs. Most Councils are already on their knees having lost £15bn in funding over the last 10 years but the idea that they can balance the budget in these circumstances is laughable.

This is a Westminster government problem and we need Westminster govt money. Plymouth City Council should be leading a campaign for the sort of funding that will support employment in the city and give local businesses the confidence to invest and re-open. Instead it seems to be pointing the way back to another round of austerity that will surely plunge us into 30’s style depression.

Plymouth in UNISON is calling for immediate investment in Councils by the Westminster government, to balance the budget of all councils without requiring them to make cuts or re-organise in the chaotic circumstances of a pandemic crisis. We would hope this Council would join us in that.

There will of course need to be a review and longer term plan for rebuilding local government and funding it fairly. Lets do it properly not from a position of total uncertainty.