Friday, 27 February 2009

Council workers sacked - here in Brighton and across the country

Well I've just got my breath back from the council's annual budget meeting. Despite the best efforts of the 12 Green party councillors, a classic Tory cuts budget was eventually passed: 123 jobs (including 57 bin-men) are to go under spending reductions across the board. Labour didn't vote against it, abstaining when it came to crunch.

This pattern is being repeated in Labour and Tory controlled coucils up and down the couuntry. According to a Local Government Association survey half of councils are laying off staff in the coming financial year - and seven in ten anticipate having to do so next year too.

At the same time, councils' income from fees and charges - mostly from construction and house-building - is falling rapidly (by £2.5 bn across the country, this year alone), and demand for services (especially housing) is rising rapidly.

It's just crazy. As economic times get tougher public sector employment should be rising to get things moving again. The council should be emnploying more people than ever - and boost services to the most vulnerable.

At the same time, we should be working to improve our housing and transport infrastructure, not just to create jobs, but to cut fuel costs - and reduce carbon emissions too. It's a classic win-win.

We proposed amendments to the budget that would have done just that. Of course the Tories opposed them and they fell. Roll on next year - we'll have another go, and perhaps we'll have picked up a seat or town in by-elections by then!

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