Local government cuts devastate women’s lives

A new UNISON report reveals more than a third of women fear for their safety as a direct result of Government cuts to local government. The union warns the situation will only get worse as more draconian cuts are still to come.
A new UNISON report –How cuts are shrinking women’s lives – reveals how more than a third (34%) of women fear for their safety as a direct result of Government cuts to local services.
An online survey of 7,550 women in the UK, found that more than half of women think local services have got worse over the past year.
71% of women said street repairs have deteriorated and 60% who use local leisure centres and parks said they have got worse. Two in five (40%) also said their streets are dirtier and almost a third said street lighting had got worse in their area.
60% of women who use children’s centres said that there were fewer types of support available.  As some centres provide childcare, cuts impact on working mothers who rely on this service to stay in their jobs.
Additionally, more than a quarter (28%) of women surveyed said the cuts had left them more cut off from finding a job and some said they were facing redundancies.
The report also reveals the scale of cuts in local areas. An FOI to councils found that more than one million street lights are now switched off or dimmed for a set period overnight across England, Wales and Scotland.
It also found that more than £82m has been cut from children’s centre budgets and  £41m in councils’ parks and open space budgets since 2010.
More than 70 council-funded children’s centres and 40 community centres have closed each year since 2010.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“The scale of the cuts in local services is having a disproportionate impact on women’s lives making them feel unsafe, isolated from their communities and preventing them from having a social and professional life.
“Women are being hit hardest by the cuts. They are hit as workers in local government where they struggle with low pay, increasing workloads and the constant threat of redundancies. And they are also hit as service users as some mothers rely on children’s centres for childcare and other public services for their families.
“Cuts to welfare, housing, childcare support and social care have already squeezed what women can afford. And the threat of further cuts will hold women back even more.”
UNISON wants a new system of needs-based funding for local government, backed by greater resources and stronger powers. This would allow councils to meet local need and protect the quality of life of women in their workplaces and in their communities.
Quotes from women on impact of local government cuts on their lives:
“I feel ashamed of my street; the pavements and roads are a disgrace and there is an awful lot of litter.”
“The elderly lady who lives down the road fell down a drain due to a loose drain cover and shattered her elbow.”
“Our local park is a disgrace – equipment that has been broken has not been replaced and the staff maintaining the park and surrounding areas are now no longer employed. I will not take my children there until these issues are resolved as I do not feel safe and there is no equipment for them to use.”

“I just cannot stand anymore to live in a dirty place, I feel a kind of shame and disgust. I’ve been helping to clean the street but it was as dirty two days later! It’s a bit like living in a tip.”

“I don’t use local playgrounds very often as the equipment is so old my children can’t use it at all and it’s damaged. It poses a health and safety risk to my youngest child.”

“My niece relies on a Children’s Centre for childcare so she can work – now it’s likely to close – I am worried she will have to leave work as private childcare is too expensive.”
“The community centre my son attended closed down. This was a great loss as it helped him through a difficult time in our lives.”
“As I work for the council and my salary has been cut in half, I can’t afford to go out, to meet up with other people or take part in local events or travel on public transport – resulting in being more cut off generally.”
Embargoed copy of the report available for the press office.
 34% of women commented on safety concerns about their local area, particularly because of street lighting, uneven pavements, potholes, and street cleanliness. Some also mentioned being worried about children’s and elderly people’s safety.