TRADE union leaders told Edinburgh councillors yesterday that plans for £70 million cuts in the council’s budget could lead to industrial action like a “spark to kindling”.

In the latest report to the city’s finance and resources committee, a whole swathe of cuts – some 73 proposals in all – were revealed.

They include reductions in school crossing attendants at lunchtimes, closing down the night noise team, reviewing the future of libraries, and cutting the funding for community policing.

The 2016-17 budget came up for debate by committee members at a time when the council is cutting 2,000 jobs as it tries to save £126 million over the next four years.

Earlier this week, Unison revealed that half of the 1,500 staff who had applied for voluntary redundancy or early retirement had been refused.

Unison’s Edinburgh branch stated: “According to the council around 2,000 staff must leave. Why, then, have there been so many refusals? Is this because the staff are needed to provide vital public services? Officials need to explain their reasoning to staff and to the elected members.”

Under the new proposals that were discussed yesterday, parking charges in the city could rise by up to one-third in parts of Edinburgh, at the same time as stairway lighting maintenance would be withdrawn in 70,000 tenement properties built before 1980.

Peter Lawson, convener of Unite in the council, warned that further cuts, added to those that had already gone before in what he called “beleaguered” services, could lead to staff strikes.

He said: “This is not new, we are not just facing this now. It is unprecedented in its scale, but it’s not new as we have been doing this for 10 years already.

“It will be destablising, there is no way around that. In many areas morale is already low and in some cases close to rock bottom.

“We see this draft budget as the kindling, and a single spark could lead to industrial unrest.”

The proposed reduction of 178 staff from the council’s homecare service, with the work being done by a new council co-operative or trading company, brought derision from another union leader.

Gerry Stovin, service conditions officer of Unison, said the report says “it is not privatisation or outsourcing … but why give a further 25 per cent of staff to the private or third sector?”

The proposal, he said, was to establish a local authority trading company or a co-operative for a range of “community-led” care services that could include homecare, daycare, carehome, disability services and occupational therapy.

Stovin said: “To me that sounds like David Cameron’s big society.

“After rejecting the privatising of IT, the environment and facilities management twice, the council decides to have another go at the service that consists predominantly of low-paid women.”

The only proposal to which councillors formally objected was the reduction in hours for lollipop patrols outside schools at lunchtimes.

Councillor Gavin Corbett of the Scottish Greens said: “I understand this is one of a large number of proposals that were issued last Friday, and I don’t doubt that some of those proposals will be shelved, but sometimes proposals raise so many questions that the best thing we can say is that they are not going forward.

“As a committee we should say this is not a worthy proposal and we should take it off the table and spare two months of doubt and anxiety that is completely unnecessary.”

Councillor Paul Edie of the Liberal Democrats said: “I am not happy to support this proposal and should take this opportunity to kick it into the long grass.”

The proposal stayed on the table, however, with convener

Alasdair Rankin stating: “This is simply a proposal that is going out to consultation.

“There is no suggestion that it is set in stone and there is no suggestion, as with any other proposal going out to consultation, that we are absolutely wedded to it.”

Rankin added: “In previous years the administration has always responded to the feedback we have been getting and a number of our proposals have been changed in light of the representations we have received.”