The loss of up to 100 council jobs

I AM writing in response to the article in last week's Mercury entitled 'Big tax hikes warning', which was poorly constructed from a press release issued by the

I AM writing in response to the article in last week's Mercury entitled 'Big tax hikes - warning', which was poorly constructed from a press release issued by the North Somerset branch of Unison, of which I am chairman elect. I thought the headline and article were misleading because the whole point of our press release was our concern that the proposed 1.9 per cent council tax increase for this year would have an immediate and negative impact on services to the elderly, disabled people and vulnerable children, as well as the loss of up to 100 council jobs. It is the effects to these services which we think the residents of North Somerset need to know about and need to talk to their councillors about before Tuesday, and not, as your article implied the effects to next year's council tax. We also want them to attend our lobby of the council meeting at 6pm at the Town Hall in Weston on Tuesday.The proposed 1.9 per cent increase in North Somerset is way below increases proposed by our neighbouring authorities, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire, all of whom have sensibly proposed around a four per cent increase, given the current inflation rate measured by the retail price index of 4.2 percent. Our press release listed the effects to services caused by such a low council tax rise.Elderly and disabled people will be charged for day care services, the cost of meals on wheels will rise, cuts to grants to Voluntary Action North Somerset, Weston and District Community Transport and other voluntary organisations will particularly impact on the elderly and disabled people, the home care service will move a step closer to privatisation resulting in reduced quality of care, cuts to education welfare, education psychology, special education needs and school improvement services will impact on vulnerable children, there will be no community development service or arts development service, and we will have a reduced sports development service, sports, arts and community services will be further affected by cuts to their grants.The council received a better-than-expected settlement from the Government, amounting to an extra £1.3 million, and yet rather than use this in combination with a larger council tax increase to save essential services, it is pressing ahead with the cuts. This completely contradicts the new administration's stated priorities of ensuring older people are adequately supported and improving the life chances of vulnerable children.We had also provided some calculations to demonstrate that a council tax rise closer to four per cent would actually result in small amounts for individuals and families to pay for saving essential public services. For instance, if you take the council tax paid by the average band D property in Weston, a 1.9 per cent increase amounts to roughly £2.50 per month but would give an extra £800,000 to spend on public services. If the new administration went for a 3.9 per cent increase, amounting to £5.10 per month, it could raise an extra £1.6million to spend on public services.I hope this letter clarifies the views of Unison. HELEN THORNTON - Chairman elect, Unison North Somerset Branch

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