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Workforce survey: Two-thirds of staff fear for their council's future

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Almost two-thirds (63%) of council workers are concerned about the financial situation of their council, a survey of 21,000 council workers by Unison has revealed.

The survey illustrates a picture of low morale and pessimism following years of budget cuts and redundancies.

Of the total number of responses, 79% reported a lack of confidence in the future of local services.

Three in five (60%) respondents reported feelings of job insecurity while around half (53%) questioned their council’s delivery of “quality” services due to a lack of funding.

The survey findings are similar to those obtained by consultancy firm PwC, which found that 74% of council leaders and senior officers surveyed expected a financial crisis in the sector within the next financial year.

A recent National Audit Office report on local government finance also revealed that a fifth of top-tier councils will exhaust their reserves within five years if the current rate of overspending continues. 

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.”

In Unison’s survey, 83% said cuts have had a negative impact on their ability to do the job as well as they can.

Concerns have also been raised that some duties required by law are not being met due to financial cuts.

One unnamed street cleaner at Wiltshire Council reported that his council had “failed to comply with environmental legislation” as “resources have been cut way past the bone”.

According to Unison, the Wiltshire worker said: “The drastic cuts mean our council has failed to comply with environmental legislation. Councils are meant to monitor areas and in residential areas resolve the problem within hours, not days, weeks or months. The rodent population has increased dramatically in the last two years and the risk to public health is now visible.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “We can assure people that we comply with our statutory duty for the collection of litter and we continue to increase the amount of money we spend on cleaning.

“In 2018/19 we will spend more than £2.5m on collecting litter in the county. The majority of this could be saved if people put their waste in the bins rather than illegally depositing it. We continue to monitor our services to ensure that Wiltshire is maintained and we also undertake a number of discretionary services, above statutory requirements, such as a daily barrowman working in identified town centres, and we sweep pavements in a number of others.”

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