staff in Northumberland are facing a meltdown situation after Northumberland
County Council cut their funding at a stroke by 24% . Management at Igen which
runs the contract have approached UNISON with a proposal for all staff to move
to a 3 day week up until the end of March.
is a direct result of the Coalition government’s cuts. But it’s been aggravated
by the history of the Careers and Connexions services in the County.
Northumberland Careers was one of a number of Local Authority Careers Services
privatised by the Tories in 1995, on the completely spurious grounds that the
Service would be more impartial if it was run by a bunch of employers.
Since then a new company was set up in
2002 to run Northumberland Connexions, before Igen won a competitive tendering
bid to run the service in 2008. The Careers Service and Connexions are
extremely labour intensive services. So, the only way to reduce costs and win a
bid is by cutting jobs and paying lower wages. Igen’s bid came in at £400,000
less than the Connexions Northumberland bid.
In and of
itself this Information, Advice and Guidance on the cheap was a recipe for
disaster placing more and more pressure on hard working and dedicated staff.
But a further consequence of the operation of the privatised service under the
present conditions is that the Liberal/Tory coalition that runs Northumberland
County Council see it as an easy option to cut the service – as they have no
connection or obligation to the staff.
So when the
latest “in year” cuts were announced the outcome was to take an axe to the
service. But what will be effect of what is to all intents and purposes a
40-50% cut in funding over the next 6-8 months? It will be carnage. The
Newcastle Journal reported:
Employees have been told by managers that the timing
of the budget cut means the £642,000 will have to be found from the remaining
£1.34m budget for the second half of the year.
Bosses say it is inevitable that the vast majority of
the saving will have to come from the staffing budget – and redundancies are
Volunteers are being sought for redundancy and
employees could be asked to switch to three-day working until March in a bid to
keep the number of axed posts to a minimum.
Talks will be held with the county council over the
next two weeks on Connexions’ proposals for a revised operational structure,
including the number of posts that will be required within the new budget.
is a big and very diverse County. There are big pockets of youth unemployment
in the towns in South East Northumberland, particularly in Ashington and Blyth.
There are big issues with drug misuse and its extremely hard for young people to
get work. In the more rural areas young people face very different problems.
and Connexions service isn’t an add on. It’s a vital service for many young
people. Throughout England the service has been left to rot by the Tories and
under New Labour; who promised a great deal but didn’t deliver in terms of
funding and staffing.
argued for a fully funded “All Age Guidance Service”, but the reality on the
ground is that services are being slashed up and down the country. Funding is “exposed”
by not being ring fenced in Local Authority budgets and by virtue of being part
of the “Area Based Grant” which was specifically targeted for big “in year”
of the cuts means that the initial response of many Connexions staff will be
shock, but its likely to quickly turn to anger and possibly industrial action.
Many of the workers will have been TUPE’d from one employer to the next over
the past 15 years and it’s never got any better. Most of the workers are
members of UNISON. The union in Northumberland must give full support to the
Igen staff. This is still a public service and the workforce are particularly
exposed to the cuts.
A number of
the Igen workers came to the launch of the Northumberland Public Service
Alliance. The response to this crisis will be a test of the union leadership’s
commitment to fighting the cuts in the County. Hundreds and thousands of public
sector workers will be looking to their unions for a lead.
- Fight the Con Dem Cuts
- Defend the Igen workers
- No cuts, no redundancies
the Bosses pay