UK Politics

Spending cuts: Councils 'to lose 140,000 jobs'

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Council leaders say the quality of services is under threat from cuts

Coalition spending cuts will lead to the loss of around 140,000 council jobs in the next year, local authority leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association originally predicted 100,000 posts would go in England and Wales as a result of October's Spending Review.

But it has revised this view after studying the impact of town hall budget cuts planned for this year.

The government said the claim was not based on credible research.

"I have seen better figures put together on the back of fag packet," said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

"This is not original research. This is a collection of press releases and the Local Government Association doesn't know what the level of the cuts are going to be or how they are going to be delivered."

'Scaremongering'

Mr Pickles threatened further exposure of top salaries at local councils if "they decide to attack the vulnerable" when they carried out budget cuts.

"If they decide to protect frontline services and take out middle management and merge services and work with others then the public should see virtually no difference," he told the BBC News Channel.

LGA chief executive John Ransford last week took a £200,000 pay cut following pressure from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

A DCLG source denied Mr Pickles was at war with the LGA - or that it was under threat of being axed, as other quangos have been.

But he said the organisation was "scaremongering" over the job cut figures and although they could not rule out some redundancies most councils should be able to make the savings without harming frontline services.

He also dismissed claims by Mr Pickles' Labour shadow Caroline Flint that he had made a last ditch appeal to the Treasury for more cash to soften the impact of the cuts to local council budgets.

Ms Flint told BBC News Mr Pickles' department needed "to do something fast because local authorities up and down the country have something like four months to meet these cuts".

"And in doing so," she added, "I think they're risking services, being forced to risk services, but make some very terrible decisions that will have a huge impact for years the come.

"They aren't fair the way they're putting these cuts out and they're having an enormous impact on the welfare of communities across our country."

'Tough choices'

Chancellor George Osborne reduced funding for local authorities by 7.1% from April 2011 in his spending review.

The LGA argues that making too many of the cuts have been "front-loaded" into the first of the four years covered by the Spending Review.

LGA Chairman Baroness Eaton said: "Local councils knew the cuts were coming and had planned prudently to reduce spending over the coming years. We cut more than £1bn from our budgets in the middle of this year, rolled up our sleeves and got on with the job.

"But the unexpected severity of the cuts that will have to be made next year will put many councils in an unprecedented and difficult position."

She warned there would be "tough choices" on staffing, adding: "No council cuts jobs lightly, but many are being left with no choice...

"Local government will have to make cuts next year of around £2bn more than we anticipated just a month ago. This stifles the opportunities for innovation and means town halls will be forced to cut further and deeper next year than they first thought.

"In order to protect frontline services, the government must ensure that councils have the flexibility needed to manage changes to grant funding that are heavily loaded at the beginning of the four-year settlement period. Grants that have yet to be finalised must be set at levels that help councils, rather than making a difficult situation even worse."

The local government finance settlement is due shortly and will be announced in a statement to Parliament.

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