2,000 council jobs to be axed as coalition cuts kick in
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Central Government, Finance
A council has warned that up to 2,000 jobs will be axed as it struggles to cope with the Tory-led coalition government's funding cuts.
Wolverhampton City Council says it is battling the most challenging financial circumstances in its history, and next week its cabinet will be asked to agree to £66.7 million savings as it proposes its 2014/15 budget.
Council leader Roger Lawrence has described the budget proposals as "painful" but vowed that the authority would manage the difficult circumstances being forced upon it.
He warned that no area of the council would be left untouched by the cuts, with services scaled back and in some cases stopped altogether.
The council warned last month that it would have to take radical action to ensure it could set a legal budget in the face of ongoing government cuts.
The money provided to Wolverhampton by central government will have reduced by £147m in real terms over four years if Whitehall goes ahead with its intended spending plans.
The council says that losing such a huge proportion of its main source of income has given it no choice but to put forward 205 savings proposals over the next five years totalling £66.7 million, with a further £59 million still to be identified.
Since 2010, in excess of 600 posts have been cut and it is anticipated that there will be a further 1,500 jobs to go by 2015. Staff have been warned that this figure could rise to closer to 2,000 jobs.
The budget report going to cabinet next week also recommends changing terms and conditions of employment which will save an estimated £5.8m and will be subject to negotiations with trade unions and further decisions by councillors. Subject to those negotiations, these are likely to include:
- Temporarily reducing full time contracts from 37 hours per week to 35 hours.
- Temporarily freezing annual pay increments for all staff.
- Not paying staff for the first day of any sickness absence.
- Flexi leave, where staff are able to take time off for hours they build up above their contracted time, will stop.
- Employees who use their cars for council business purposes would see their mileage rates reduced from 45p a mile to 25p a mile.
- All employees' contracts would change to a '5 out of 7' arrangement. This means that all employees could be asked to work a pattern which includes weekends. There would be no additional payments for weekend working.
Councillor Lawrence said: "I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone who took part in the budget consultation and pay tribute to the serious and constructive approach adopted. Particular thanks must also go to those who said they would be prepared to step in and help us with this crisis by volunteering or working with us to find alternative ways of saving money to prevent service cuts.
"We've made no secret of our financial position and these budget proposals are a direct result of the savage cuts Central government is making to our budget.
"No organisation or individual could sustain losing half of their income without having to radically reduce spending. We are no different - but when a council reduces its spending that means services people value get cut and jobs are lost.
"It is painful and difficult, but it is unfortunately necessary. We will manage through these difficult circumstances, we have no choice but to take these measures in order to produce a legal and balanced budget."
"More job losses are hugely regrettable, not just for the individuals who face losing their livelihoods but also for the city because many of these people live here and spend their money here.
"Proposing such radical changes to terms and conditions of employment are also something we would rather not have to do, but we have little choice with the sums of money we need to save."