'We will be at the table - not on the menu': Unison says Northamptonshire council employees will be part of unitary negotiations

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis was in Northampton yesterday to kickstart the union's consultation on unitary status here in Northamptonshire.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis was in Northampton yesterday to kickstart the union's consultation on unitary status here in Northamptonshire.

The chief of a public sector union looking after 7,000 workers in the county vowed "we will have a seat at the table" in Northamptonshire's unitary authority negotiations.

Last month, Government inspector Max Caller MBE urged leaders of the eight councils across the county to consider disbanding the current local government structures as part of a damning report into Northamptonshire County Council's finances.

He said the current eight-council system should be reduced to two new authorities that would look after every public service from street cleaning to care homes.

Heads of the county, districts and boroughs have been holding a series of crunch meetings about how the boundary lines of the so-called new super authorities should be drawn up.

But yesterday general secretary of Unison Dave Prentis launched a bid to make sure the views of some 7,000 staff members in the county were not dismissed.

The union launched a major consultation to gather civil servants' fears over condensing eight councils to just two.

Speaking outside One Angel Square yesterday he said: "We want to be at the table in a constructive fashion.

"I am here to kick off the consultation with our members. Not just in the county council but the district and borough councils as well.

"People who are not in the union - we are going to let them know they can participate too.

"We are here to sit down with our members and talk about all the implications as part of the consultation exercise - we will be at the table.

"Many times we have been excluded

"But I am saying we will be at the table come hell or highwater.

"If you are not at the table - you are on the menu - and our members will not be on the menu, I can assure you."

Mr Prentis also feared compulsory redundancies at Northamptonshire County Council would be "inevitable" if Government commisioners were brought in to run services as reccomended by Mr Caller.

The authority is still in the grip of emergency spending controls and last month voted to cut £40 million from its budget.

But he pleaded with the leaders to consider other options for balancing the books in the future - such as a review of top-level pay.

He said: "Somebody who has made compulsorily redundant has to go back home and say 'I've lost my job'.

"That is a tragedy in that home.

"Why has it got to a position where we could face compulsory redundancies?

"Something has gone badly wrong in Northamptonshire."