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Union pleas to stop careers cuts founder

PUBLISHED: 13:24 31 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

UNION calls to spare the axe on £2.8m cuts to Norfolk's careers service appear to have foundered as council leaders get set to press ahead with the controversial plans.

UNION calls to spare the axe on £2.8m cuts to Norfolk's careers service appear to have foundered as council leaders get set to press ahead with the controversial plans.

County councillors will next Monday consider measures to deal with the coalition government's decision to claw back £10m, which includes proposals to cut £2.8m from the Connexions budget and the loss of 65 staff.

County Hall is looking instead at a switch to a web and telephone-based service, while offering a reduced amount of one-to-one support, with schools and colleges, which offer their own careers advice services, also expected to pick up the slack.

Members of Unison have led the campaign for a rethink and produced an alternative package which would see the cuts reduced to 30 jobs by bringing the changes forward to the current financial year, and taking £700,000 out of reserves.

Opposition parties have also called for a rethink and last week Norwich South MP Simon Wright urged the council to look again at the proposal.

The union believes the service has been unfairly singled out for cuts and warns that the Connexions service is a “vital frontline service” that helps bridge the gap between education and work.

But a joint report by the council's resources and children's services departments said that did not give enough time to issue redundancy notices to staff and the savings would total £350,000 and not £700,000 as the union suggested.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said that given the scale of the cuts being imposed by central government, the authority was not in a position to change course.

“We can't continually cut from services and expect them to hold up,” Mr Cox said. “Instead we need to redesign our services within the funding available and look at how we can continue to provide what we want and what we need for the people of Norfolk.

“At a stroke, the government has taken away money that we had already budgeted for, to help the nation balance its books. We accept that we must help in that task and fully understand why such action was felt to be necessary. But if we don't act fast, it will cost Norfolk people more and that is simply not acceptable. We value our good working relationship with Trade Unions and appreciate contributions made to the consultation.”

Paul Morse, leader of the opposition group said his party will be putting forward an alternative to the cuts plans at Monday's meeting.

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