Council's staff cuts could 'cause another Baby P' staff warned

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STAFF at Portsmouth City Council have been warned job cuts could lead to a 'Baby P' case in the city.

Trade Union Unison has criticised the council for planning to cut staff numbers by 408 in April's budget.

It believes the plans could see care levels reduced so much there could be a repeat of the Baby P incident in which a 17-month old boy died after suffering more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period.

He had been seen repeatedly by Haringey council children's services.

In a message to its members, UNISON said: 'We have very real concerns pending job losses will reduce the ability of staff to provide services our communities depend on. Vulnerable people will suffer, and the likelihood of another "Baby P" case, will increase dramatically if the intention to reduce social care teams go ahead.'

UNISON fears community safety warden numbers could be cut to single figures, and the council's youth offending team could be closed down.

Its Portsmouth branch secretary, Lindsay Williams, said: 'The information we've had is the community safety team will be cut by half, which will affect young people and domestic violence victims. We understand all the youth offending team will lose their jobs. It will have a terrible effect on the city. The council must review what it's planning.'

The union also criticised what it sees as a targeting of middle management and lower paid staff in the cuts.

The council employs two levels of management, strategic directors - who between them earn around 1m per year - and heads of service.

But Ms Williams said: 'We've seen no evidence the council's looking at higher level staff. But someone like Julian Wooster, strategic director for children's services, earns roughly 100,000 per year, while the councillor who covers the same remit earns 17,000. Our members are unhappy about the whole situation, and the way it's been handled. There's a rising tide of feeling.'

Council staff were told of the plans to cut 408 jobs by e-mail on Thursday. But the communication did not say where the axe would fall.

Portsmouth North's Tory MP Penny Mordaunt said: 'It's not a good approach to say we must cut jobs, without knowing what those jobs are. Money should be focused on vital services. Cuts to services which keep young people out of trouble will cost the public money because more young people may fall foul of the law. We must avoid cuts at the start of the year, only for the council to have to hire more people to continue necessary services.'

But Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'There will be job losses at senior management level. It's good people recognise the value they get from councillors. If there were more of them and fewer senior officers that would save money.

'Every job in the council is under some threat, with very few exceptions. The youth offending team's future may depend on home office grants, which we still haven't had guidance on yet.'

Authority's budget approach criticised by employees and politicians

by RORY O'KEEFFE

Political editor

rory.okeeffe@thenews.co.uk

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