Local services collapsing, say council staff

By agency reporter
June 19, 2018

Local government spending cuts have left councils across the UK unable to meet the needs of local communities and, in some cases, are putting the public at risk, says UNISON.

A survey, released to coincide with the union’s local government conference, reveals that eight in ten (79 per cent) council workers have no confidence in the future of local services, and half (50 per cent) are thinking of leaving their jobs for less stressful work elsewhere.

The survey – of 21,000 local government employees working across all services – reveals that two-thirds (67 per cent) say residents do not receive help and support when they need it, and more than half (54 per cent) are not confident vulnerable residents are safe and cared for.

Council staff who took part shared stories of families living in mouldy, overcrowded properties; fly-tipping being left for weeks; increasing rodent populations; residents’ cars damaged by huge potholes; and vulnerable children, young people and adults not getting the help and support they need.

A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that government funding for local authorities in England has fallen by an estimated 49 per cent (in real terms) from 2010-11 to 2017-18. In UNISON’s survey, an overwhelming 83 per cent admitted these cuts have had a negative impact on their ability to do the job as well as they can.

While local authorities have protected spending on statutory service areas such as adult and children’s social care, the amount they spend on other areas like parks and libraries has fallen sharply, says UNISON.

Worryingly, over half those who responded (53 per cent) believe their council no longer delivers quality services, and almost half (48 per cent) that their employer doesn’t make the right decisions for the public. Additionally, almost two-thirds (63 per cent) are concerned about the financial situation of their council.

Council workers identified a lack of front line staff (64 per cent), adult social care (61 per cent), safeguarding children and young people (47 per cent), a lack of housing options (44 per cent) and road repairs (41 per cent) as the biggest challenges facing local authorities.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed said there had been redundancies in their departments and as a result, three in five (60 per cent) do not feel secure in their jobs. Many spoke of colleagues leaving and not being replaced, causing those remaining to pick up the extra work. As a result, over half (53 per cent) said their workload is unmanageable and another three in five (61 per cent) that they regularly work beyond their contracted hours.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Local services are collapsing and council workers are being left to pick up the pieces and do the best they can amid the chaos. This disturbing survey should ring alarm bells in Whitehall and also alert ministers to the crisis happening in councils up and down the country.

“Local authorities have had to cut so many vital services that they have now reached a point where vulnerable children and the elderly struggle to get the help that they need, entire communities are suffering, and the public are being put at risk.

“With cuts to road and bridge maintenance, potholes in roads are left unfilled, and bridges are at risk of crumbling. Crematoriums are not maintained, streetlights stay broken, and parks are in disrepair as councils don’t have the equipment or the staff to adequately maintain them.

“There are now over one million people with an unmet need for social care because councils don’t have the resources to support them. Now is the time to reverse these cuts and invest in local government once more or the very fabric of our society will come unstuck.”

* Read the report Councils at breaking point here

* UNISON https://www.unison.org.uk/

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