Protest planned at Caerphilly council ahead of budget cuts meeting

A PROTEST is due to take place outside Caerphilly council’s headquarters this afternoon ahead of a meeting to discuss the authority’s budget cuts.

UNISON members working for the authority say they will demonstrate against the council’s “blatant attack” on their terms and conditions.

Caerphilly council has to make savings of £14.53m in 2014/15 as a result of the UK Government’s austerity measures, with further additional savings of £6.54m for 2015/16 and £7.06m for 2016/17, amounting to £28.13m over the next three years.

But Britain’s biggest trade union has accused the council of lacking transparency during the consultation process surrounding the current medium term financial situation. The council is proposing a reduction of the casual mileage rate from 55p a mile to 50p a mile, but UNISON fears that this is just the beginning and that more cuts will follow.

Gary Enright, UNISON Caerphilly council branch secretary, said: “These proposals are an outright and blatant attack on employees’ terms and conditions of service.

“I believe that this will be the thin end of the wedge and that if we don’t challenge the council at this stage then the floodgates will open for further reductions to our members’ terms and conditions.

“For this employer to even suggest such a reduction in light of the chief officer’s essential user buyout is morally repugnant and is an insult to the workforce.

“We are not prepared to simply roll over and accept these proposals. We will stand firm and challenge the council.

“Wednesday’s demonstration is an opportunity for people to show their anger at the council’s proposals. Our members are telling us that they are not happy with the council’s plans, and we are confident of a big turnout on Wednesday. I only hope that the council sit up and take note.”

But the Labour group on the council has expressed its disappointment about the planned protest over the proposal to reduce mileage allowances for council staff.

Keith Reynolds, Caerphilly council's deputy leader, said: "Most Welsh authorities pay their staff less than 50p a mile for mileage. And the latest proposal is already an improvement on the 45p a mile originally put forward. We'd welcome alternative ideas from Unison on how to save the £125,000 gained by the mileage rate cut, rather than adding a further increase to council tax rates.

“What we need now is less demonstrations and more negotiations.”

A spokesman for Caerphilly council added: “This is one of many savings proposals being considered by the authority as we face unprecedented financial challenges over the next few years. Members will carefully consider all proposals before reaching any decision."

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