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Localism Bill will cause uncertainty around job cuts at councils

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The Localism Bill was unveiled by communities and local government secretary, Eric Pickles, yesterday.

Pickles described the legislation as heralding "a ground-breaking shift in power to councils and communities, overturning decades of central government control and starting a new era of people power."

During his speech at the House of Commons, Pickles also said that councils would face effective cuts of 9.9% next year, and 7.3% in 2012/13.

The trade union Unite said that the coalition’s ‘Big Society’ justification for the changes were a "smokescreen" for job cuts.

Their general secretary-elect, Len McCluskey, said: "It is not possible have cuts to local government - amounting to 28 per cent over four years - and then expect people and organisations in their areas suddenly to have the inclination, expertise and cash to take-over the running of local government which has taken over a century to develop the range of services it now offers.

"The coalition is using the Orwellian language of 1984 to promote localism as the panacea of all ills, when, in reality, it is a grim cuts agenda being imposed from Whitehall."

Reacting to the announcements, Andy Robling, public services director at recruitment firm Hays, emphasised the need for council employees to receive regular communication in a time of uncertainty.

"With a large deficit to tackle, the reduction of funds allocation is not unexpected but job cuts must be handled properly," Robling said. "Our research shows many public sector organisations understand the need to keep staff informed, that they are taking action to ensure the top team is visible and that they regularly communicate with individuals across the organisation, so that they understand reasons for change and input where necessary."

Sue Ripplin, HR services director at Northgatearinso, said that councils should attempt to increase efficiency in staffing in order to avoid services being affected. "As the harsh reality of the Government’s budget cuts hits local services, councils should be looking at which services can be shared as a first step towards operating for a lower budget. With the right processes and people in place, it’s a straight-forward way of keeping councils running for less."