Union accuses East Cambs District Council of cutting jobs and services to fund pet projects

Union members say they are concerned about the council's corporate priorities, such as Ely bypass.

Union members say they are concerned about the council's corporate priorities, such as Ely bypass. - Credit: Archant

“STUNNED” staff at cash-strapped East Cambridgeshire District Council claim the authority will be saddled with 25 years worth of debt to fund Conservative pet projects while making staff redundant and cutting services.

Members of Britain’s biggest trade union, Unison, say that to make the repayments, the ruling Conservative group is planning to cut essential services and lay off more staff.

The union has accused the Conservatives of being unrealistic with their spending priorities just weeks after the announcement from Chancellor George Osborne of a further 10 per cent cut the council’s budget.

The district council has already been left with a £400,000 black hole in its budget following a decision by councillors to scrap plans for car park charges.

Unison members say they are concerned that the Conservatives’ corporate priorities, including a new Ely bypass and leisure centre, may jeopardise funding for community organisations such as ADeC, the Citizens Advice Bureaux, existing sports services and public conveniences.

Phil Gooden, Unison’s regional organiser said “Due to poor political leadership, services which are valued by the public will be lost. It is outrageous for councillors to plough on with major capital projects like building a new leisure centre.

“Unison can only conclude that some councillors have their own political ambitions in the forefront of their mind, rather than the needs of residents. Others are obviously wanting to remain ‘in favour’ within their own party, so they don’t get removed from committees as we saw happen as punishment to the dissenters on car parking charges.

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“At a time when all of us are being encouraged to budget sensibly and ‘cut our cloth’ accordingly it beggars belief that councillors are ignoring the current climate of austerity by placing the district council in a seemingly untenable financial position.”

Cllr Charles Roberts, deputy leader of the council, said: “Local authorities up and down the country are facing the difficult choices we are grappling with - the only way to ensure we have a future is to meet the challenges we face head on.

“Far from taking on debt to deliver the services and projects which our residents want, we have taken the sensible decision to look closely at how the authority currently works to see what savings can be made.

“This is the best way to protect the front line services which we must deliver for peoples’ hard earned Council Tax given the big cuts we are currently facing to our grant from National Government.”