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Royston Cllr Royston Smith, Leader of Southampton City Council, on how councils can protect leisure centre, libraries and other front line services from the cuts

There is a credible alternative to front line job losses and the resultant loss of services. It means public servants making sacrifices to help save the services they provide.

Many local authorities around the country say that making tens of thousands of people redundant is simply unavoidable. As a result front line services will inevitably be lost.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Southampton has found another way.

We will keep all libraries and leisure centres open. We will invest more money in our roads and footpaths to support the city’s economy. We will keep all our Sure Start Centres open and invest more in children’s social services. We will continue to clean the streets and empty bins weekly.

The Southampton way is to consult meaningfully, drive out waste, share the pain of reduced budgets and always put the customer first.

It is a painful alternative for those affected, but it is one that will protect your leisure centre and your library and your Sure Start Centre from the axe. It is one that will mean more social workers to protect vulnerable children and one that will ensure your bins continue to be collected weekly.

In Southampton we carried out the biggest public consultation in our history so that we could understand how members of the public and our staff felt we should spend our money.

The public voice was clear – protect key front line services and get the city’s economy back on its feet.

So we listened and then acted on what we were told.

The first step was to cut down on waste. We will strip out management costs. One in five senior mangers will go, including two directors, and we will restructure the entire council to be purely focussed on the customer.

This is what our customers, the residents of Southampton, have asked us to prioritise.

The next step is to ‘share the pain.’ Instead of cutting services and making redundancies, we are asking our staff to take a modest pay cut. The highest earners, including the chief executive, will take the biggest pay cuts. Our approach even allows us to give those on the lowest incomes a modest pay rise. Councillors’ allowances will be reduced by 5.5% which is the largest reduction and in line with the senior managers’.

Job losses and impacts on some services are unavoidable, but they do not need to be anywhere near the scale of losses we are seeing in similar sized authorities.

Finally, we are clear that it is our taxpayers, our customers, who must come first in any decision we make. I know a pay cut will be difficult for people but by doing so we will prevent a further 400 people from losing their jobs and a the end of this process we will still be providing hundreds of services to our customers and investing millions of pounds in our city.

Southampton remains very much open for business and local people are shaping our policies.

8 comments for: How Southampton is protecting the front line

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