Council workers protest at planned cash cuts

NORTH Somerset Council was branded as philistine by its own workers at a protest outside Weston Town Hall on Tuesday.

NORTH Somerset Council was branded as 'philistine' by its own workers at a protest outside Weston Town Hall on Tuesday.

Placard-bearing union members and youth workers welcomed councillors to a meeting where the budget for 2007/08 was being discussed, to protest against some of the 'devastating' planned cutbacks.

Community Youth Workers Union representative, Kevin Sweeney, said the youth service will be hardest hit by the council cuts outlined in its draft budget.

Speaking before the executive meeting, he said: "We have been told £150,000 will be cut from the community youth services budget over the next two years which represents 25 per cent from a budget of £1.1million.

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"It will have devastating and detrimental effects upon the range and amount of provision across North Somerset.

"Educational psychologists, school improvement teams which work alongside primary schools and sports officers have all been identified as positions which will be lost."

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The suggested cuts come as the council seeks to plug a £17millon shortfall it has identified over the next two years.

The draft budget, which was approved by executive members on Tuesday, makes a series of cuts and savings, but still has a £2million gap which will need to be met either by an increase in council tax, or further cuts.

During the meeting, Cllr Tom Leimdorfer said: "I'm very concerned the proposed cuts will put at risk the most vulnerable children and will impact on young people."

Council leader Cllr Nigel Ashton reiterated his desire to keep his election promise by ensuring any increase in council tax is below inflation.

As part of the savings identified, 200 workers have been 'put on notice' that they might lose their jobs.

The council has already acted by increasing the cost of hot meals and outsourcing the provision of frozen meals to the elderly to a private contractor.

The provisional budget will now go before scrutiny panels in January and full council before a final decision is made by the executive in February.

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