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Union anger over lack of consultation on council budget

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UNION bosses have expressed their anger and disappointment over lack of consultation on the detail of Warrington Borough Council’s four year budget which goes before full council on Monday.

In a strongly worded email to borough council finance chiefs UNISON Joint Branch Secretary Jason Horan describes his disappointment at lack of consultation as an “understatement!”

In an email to director of finance Lynton Green and Labour’s finance portfolio holder Cllr Russ Bowden, Mr Horan claims there has been NO consultation with the UNISON on the detail of the budget and 4 year settlement.

Mr Horan wrote: “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement! Although you will state we have had a few meetings over the previous 12 months regarding the OBB process there has been little to no detail provided on budget proposals for the next 12 months to 4 years. All you have provided is overall savings/cut’s targets which to be truthful has consistently changed anyway i.e. £16 down to £9m savings requirement for the immediate 12 months.

“At the last meeting we had with you on the 10th January 2017 we were presented with an SMT report giving headline statements on proposed budget saving areas. You were informed by us that this did not come close to a budget consultation document and we required much more detail around the specific proposals including how the budget gap was going to be met i.e. income streams.

“Alongside this we required much more detail from you over the full 4 year settlement and how or what proposals were being considered to meet further budget gaps.

“Since the 10th January 2017 we have received no further information from you.

“Despite the increasing frustration of the above I then receive an email as I presume all council staff will have received with the headline budget information for the next financial year but again with no finer detail.

“I attended the Executive Board meeting on Monday 13th February to note that one of the agenda items was the draft budget for 2017/18 which was subsequently approved for full council pending potential changes to the final settlement figure.

“I must stress my disappointment at this year’s budget process and raise serious concerns at the lack of consultation on proposals for the upcoming financial year and further 3 years of settlement. It certainly has not been anywhere like meaningful and question the future direction of the council given words like ‘commissioning’ have been used when it is clearly apparent that a budget consultation process cannot be open and transparent.”

A Warrington Borough Council spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to a budget consultation process which is open and transparent. We have met a number of times with trade unions for discussions around the budget – and this discourse will continue.

“It is important to note that we are moving to a four year budget, to enable us to undertake more long-term, strategic and proactive planning of services. Therefore, we will be consulting at the appropriate times on individual projects, as the process moves forward. Any changes affecting staff will be subject to separate consultation and we will, of course, work closely with trade unions on each of these proposals

“In addition, we have carried out a range of activities to explain the budget proposals to a number of different groups, including events for local businesses and the voluntary sector, briefings for elected members and an engagement forum for our own staff.”

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Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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