Give Stevenage the life support it needs, UNISON urges

Stevenage Borough Council is reportedly on the brink of effectively declaring bankruptcy, according to reports today.

The council is considering issuing a section 114 notice, which would mean severe cuts to balance its books, gutting vital local services and putting staff on the dole.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Nalin Cooke warned it would be “disastrous news for Stevenage.”

He said: “Staff have been going flat out to keep as many services as possible running through the pandemic, with residents still able to rely on support with their housing, still receiving benefits and still having their bins collected. They’ve pulled together to support the food bank helping the town’s most vulnerable residents.

“We can’t allow the reward for that commitment to be mass redundancies. UNISON will fight job losses every step of the way.

“Local councils have weathered years of budget cuts from central government forcing them to rely more and more on business rates and council tax for their revenue. With high streets shut down they’re losing out on millions.

“But after years of slashing funding to the bone, central government is now withholding life support – with the emergency cash not even making up a quarter of the losses.

“Westminster must step in and stop Stevenage going under.”

Councils have a legal obligation to balance their books.

A notice under section 114 of 1988’s Local Government Finance Act is issued if a council can’t finance its expenditure. It gives the authority a 21-day window to come up with a new balanced budget, most likely through severe cuts to services and staffing.