Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010
Threat to '25,000 council jobs'



By Paul Deal
BBC News

Jarrow marchers
Pat Maher in Jarrow worries that it will be hard to find another job

When Pat Maher is out and about in Jarrow, she cannot help noticing the bronze statue commemorating the march for jobs in the 1930s.

Today Ms Maher worries about her own employment prospects and those of the other 50 or so staff at the care home where she works.

She is not alone in feeling anxious.

At least 25,000 council jobs in England will be under threat in the next three to five years, a BBC survey suggests, as councils struggle with the fall-out from the recession.

Several worried council workers have spoken about their fears.

I can see that the council thinks it can save money if it closes care homes, but how will that impact on the old people?
Pat Maher, care home cook

The concern for Ms Maher and her workmates is that South Tyneside Council might shut Connolly House in South Shields.

Ms Maher has spent 25 years as a council cook. For the past few years she has been at Connolly House which looks after people with Alzheimer's.

She is proud of the care it provides to residents and their families.

Ms Maher said: "If you provide a good service and people are happy and enjoying a good quality of life, why shut it down?

"This is more than just a job. We've spent Christmases with these people. You can't just shut the door and go home. We are their family when their real family aren't here.

"I can see that the council thinks it can save money if it closes care homes, but how will that impact on the old people?

"They would find it very difficult to move. They might not remember your name but they know your voice and they know your face and that recognition gives them comfort.

"It would be very upsetting to see them have to go - and where would they go? Their families can't cope with them."

Extended consultations

Ms Maher is also worried for the staff, as well as the residents.

"As for us, we won't have any jobs to go to. We've had reorganisations before, but there won't be any redeployment this time. So redundancy would be the only thing for us.

"It used to be that a job with the council was a job for life. You thought that it would always be your job as long as you were doing a good job."

South Tyneside Council said it was always willing to listen to local people before making major decisions.

In a statement it said: "We recently decided to extend consultation on the future of our three long-term residential care homes by six months to give local people more time to have their say."

'Furious and upset'

Maxine McTighe, who is 46 and from Wigston in Leicestershire, has a learning disability. Thanks to Breaking the Barriers, a specialist team at the county council, she has a job.

Maxine with her mother
Maxine McTighe's mother fears her daughter will lose her independence

She works from nine to four, four days a week, at Four West near her home. She puts pins in boxes, sorts different coloured chunks of wax and stuffs letters in envelopes.

She is paid £164 every three months.

Ms McTighe lives with several other women. They all have learning disabilities and carers visit to provide help.

Leicestershire is seeking to save £770,000 over four years from the service. Ms McTighe is concerned that she might lose her job.

She told BBC Leicester: "I save for my holidays because I am going away.

Maxine enjoys going to work. In all that bad weather, she never missed a day. Why pick on the disabled?
Ann Foster, mother

"I won't know where to turn [if it closes] because I've made all different friends from different areas. I shall be furious and upset. I know my mum will be upset."

Her mother, Ann Foster, who is 73, said: "Maxine enjoys going to work. In all that bad weather, she never missed a day. Why pick on the disabled?

"I just don't know what will happen. It'll be a very sad thing if it does close.

"I wouldn't know what to do with her. She enjoys Four West and wouldn't be able to get a normal job anywhere else because she has no short-term memory. She forgets what she has done an hour before.

Members of the Midnight Football club in Norfolk
Police say midnight football has paid dividends in King's Lynn

"I'm ill myself, I'm a heart patient. I know she lives with the other girls, but what's going to happen when I'm gone? It is a worry."

The county said it wanted to continue helping people with disabilities to find work.

In a statement it said: "We will be targeting the service towards people who are eligible for community care support. We will ensure that those people in greatest need will continue to be supported."

Midnight football

Norfolk County Council is cutting the money it gives to voluntary children's groups from £2.4m to £1m in the coming year.

One of the projects facing closure is a midnight football project in King's Lynn which helps keep young people off the streets.

The North Lynn Discovery centre is open from 9pm to midnight three nights a week and must find £20,000 to keep running.

What we've noticed is a significant decrease in the number of youths hanging around, particularly in the evening
Insp Paul Durham, Norfolk Police

Inspector Paul Durham, from Norfolk Police, said: "There's no doubt in my mind and the minds of my officers as well that it's made a big difference and you can sense it in the atmosphere in the area.

"What we've noticed is a significant decrease in the number of youths hanging around, particularly in the evening."

Asperger East Anglia is losing £40,000 in funding and could be forced to end its specialist services for children with Asperger syndrome.

Chief executive Steve Bloomfield, said: "We will continue to support them as best we can but that does mean a very restrictive service and it puts jobs at risk as well.

"For parents in particular, it's a huge blow."

Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox said: "We were faced with having to make £26m of savings for the coming year and the simple option would have been not to have made those savings and to put up council tax by 10%.

"But during our consultation a message came back very loud and clear that people were fed up with council tax being put up year after year and I've made a commitment that we won't see council tax rise higher than the level of inflation."



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