It’s grim out there….

According to a report from the TUC

Between July – Sept 2008 and the same quarter in 2013, the unemployment rate rose 2.2 points; only the West Midlands saw a bigger increase. The employment rate fell 2.1 points over the same period, the largest fall seen in any region and substantially larger than the UK average fall of 0.6 points. This was despite the working age population increasing more slowly in the SW than across the UK overall.


The South West has suffered since the recession began and the recovery of the last two years has been of less benefit in this region than in most of the rest of the country. The employment rate has essentially been flat lining since the summer of 2012 and the unemployment rate has been moving in the wrong direction since the start of the year.

Currently average gross weekly earnings for full-time employees stand at £525, persistently below the UK average of £563. Average earnings have fluctuated around 95 per cent of the national average for the last 15 years but for the past two years the relative position of the South West has been falling.

Grim reading. But then worse is to come.

Originally the cuts budget was £90m but now it’s estimated at £83m. Interesting these changes were only released in mid January yet according to the Chair of the Resources Scrutiny Commission (who gave a report at the Cabinet meeting on the 16th Jan) said that Ferguson et al knew back in September the budget would be £83m, why did he wait until Jan to announce it? Plus the complaints from the Resources Scrutiny Commission that they haven’t been able to scrutinise an up-to-date budget! And while Ferguson has been invited to attend this Commission he hasn’t. Ferguson’s response was full of defensiveness, bluster and excuses. So much for local government democracy…

This is just one big mess with restructuring. There are 3 types;  there’s the “clean sheet” i.e what do we need (statutory duties, what is wanted, outcomes and delivery of services) it will define the structure, secondly, voluntary severance is based on “who wants to go”, and finally, top-down restructuring which is also a mess. But how do you know what management structure you want when you haven’t worked out what is needed and also who wants to leave. A dog’s dinner? You betcha!

But there’s method in this madness as the reality is 800 posts will be lost affecting up to 1,000 workers. No doubt deskilling and further cut backs. And Bristol Council has employed this man who has a history of outsourcing public services (Barnet and Suffolk Councils). While everyone else is wondering whether they will still have a job, be outsourced and so on. He will be earning £100,000…. Also the devil is in the detail, I mean look at the blue sky thinking from George’s Ideas Lab (see page 30):

Using those on community service programs to help reduce staffing costs. 

The idea is for people sentenced to conduct ‘community service’ to work alongside permanent members of staff in a bid to reduce costs on councils – in essence, a supply of free labour.

The “score” this idea got was 4 out of 5 meaning thumbs up.

The major employers in Bristol and South Glos are the MoD and Bristol Council both employ (number from Feb 2012) over 5000+ people. As Bristol Unison state: We seem to be entering a turbulent and precarious period in the history of Bristol’s public service delivery and it is difficult to comprehend how cutting the civic budget by a third is either balanced, pragmatic or likely to improve the quality of life in Bristol for workers and communities especially when the proposals contain a plan to increase council tax for three years running.

From The Changing State of the South West 2012: Between 1999 and 2009, over half of all jobs added in the region were in the public sector. These estimates are volatile, being subject to some reclassification through time, but indications are that the public sector share of total FTE employment increased by almost 2.5 percentage points. The loss of this important source of job creation will be a major factor in how the labour market performs, certainly over the next 2-3 years.

Indications are that public sector employment is declining faster in the region than elsewhere, falling from a peak at the end of 2009 (553,000 to 508,000). The region has experienced the largest absolute (exc. London) and relative declines in public sector employment.

So the economic forecast for the South West is dismal. Women will be the hardest hit by the cuts in the public sector (40% of women’s jobs are in the public sector compared to 11% of men’s jobs). If people don’t have money in their pockets after bill paying and the essentials then we will see an erosion in the economy certainly in regards to the multiplier effect. But hey, we may be poor, jobless and poor and jobless we can all queue up outside the £90m arena in Bristol to catch a glimpse of this wonderful vanity piece thought up by George Ferguson, pressing our noses up to the glass and gasp at the sight or building site as it’s overrun its predicted opening, over budget and damaging the environment. Plus Bristol council are desperate (total and utter spineless capitulation) to overturn the blanket ban on evictions in regards to the bedroom tax, maybe everyone can kip down in the arena I mean, it’s big enough… way big enough if you look at the proposed drawings.

While food prices increase, along with fuel bills and benefits slashed and wages frozen public transport costs increases (Bristol’s bus fares are already amongst the highest in Europe) and forget the luxuries. The future is bleak.

There will be a demo on the 8 Feb in the run up to the full council meeting on the 18 Feb, which will discuss the budget.

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