In an attempt to find £29.1m of extra savings it needs to balance its books by the end of the current financial year, Bristol City Council has invited its staff to apply for voluntary reduncancy and has proposed 450 full-time equivalent jobs must go by September. A further trance of job losses is expected by April, up to an estimated 1,000 full-time posts.
The crisis in Bristol’s finances comes from a combination of under delivered savings from 2015/16 and 2016/17 and rising costs, particularly in statutory social care services.
Unite regional officer Stuart Davies said: "Every area of the organisation is under pressure to save money. What is quite difficult for us as a trade union is that people are willing to volunteer for redundancy, there’s not much you can do about that. There are people who may have long service and it suits them but there are also a number of people seeing the writing on the wall, they don’t like what’s coming on the horizon."
Council cabinet members were asked to agree the cuts during a meeting last week where they were warned the council was "in a serious financial position".
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said last month: "I have inherited a huge financial challenge which is proving bigger than we knew even a month or two ago. We continue to make savings in many ways, but we cannot close the gap without reducing the number of jobs at the council.
"This scheme is about giving people the option to leave voluntarily, which is the right thing to do. We will support staff as best we can throughout this difficult time.
"I am acutely aware that this process, whilst necessary, will inevitably place more restrictions on what we can achieve and what services we provide. My priority remains making Bristol a more equal and inclusive city where no-one is left behind. This means keeping my promises to the Bristol public, maintaining our life-and-limb services and doing all I can to improve people’s lives with the resources I’ve got."
The protest comes a week after the Heritage Lottery Fund published its second State of UK Public Parks report, which found that 75% of park managers surveyed reported they had seen cuts to management staff, and 71% to operational staff over the past three years.
In addition the report warned of a continuing loss of skills from parks across the UK.
Davies added: "A lot of what our members are talking about it is what will this mean for those left behind? Councils can’t wade through these cuts and expect a continuation of the same level of service. Inevitably there will be an increase in members’ levels of stress."
The in-house parks service in Bristol is part of the place directorate which had a budget of £22.3m for this financial year and is predicted to overspend by £6.8m, according to the latest council statement.