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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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Councils to cut jobs and spending, BBC survey reveals

"Nothing like this has happened for a generation" warns economics expert

At least 25,000 council jobs in England will be under threat in the next three to five years, says a BBC English Regions survey published today.

The forecast is based on answers from 49 councils with a combined workforce of just over 256,000.

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, told the BBC: "The scale of job reductions... suggests tens of thousands of posts are likely to be lost... it seems likely there will be a sharp cut in council jobs in 2010 and for some years after."

Many of the councils which responded to the BBC survey were reluctant to forecast job losses.

But eight authorities – Kirklees, Leeds, City of Bradford, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Surrey – said 1,000 or more posts might have to go within five years.

The survey also revealed more than 70% predict they will have to cut spending by between five and 20% over the next three to five years.

"Nothing like this has happened for a generation," continued Mr Travers, "to minimise the impacts on the public... would require massive efficiencies in all services, higher charges for many and sharing back-office staff with other public bodies."

The councils in the survey have continued to budget for increased revenue spending (ie on running costs rather than capital projects) in the year from April 2010 with an average increase of 2.5%.

But that represents a sharp drop on the average rise of 5.3% in 2008/09.

Asked to forecast the impact on spending in the next three to five years, almost all who responded said they expected budget cuts.

Of the 62 councils which offered a view on which services would be most vulnerable, libraries, the arts and leisure were identified as being most at risk.

Services for the homeless, children's social services and planning were more likely to be protected.

BBC English Regions also asked whether councils were exploring innovative ways of saving money in the way that services are delivered.

Almost all the councils which responded planned to share services with other parts of the public sector.

Ninety-six per cent said they were planning to share services with other public sector bodies, such as health trusts, schools, voluntary organisations or other councils.

The survey was sent to 150 county and unitary councils and metropolitan and London boroughs. District councils were excluded.

Ninety-three responded, giving an overall response rate of 62%, although a lower number chose to answer certain questions.

Facing The Cuts, a BBC Local Radio exclusive, will host a 'national conversation' about difficult spending choices faced by town, county and city halls.

Every local radio station in England will be hosting a live debate at 10.00am on Monday (1 March 2010).

Local Radio station details can be found at bbc.co.uk/england.

Specially commissioned BBC local reporters are working across England today to drill down further into the impact of public sector cuts and to get the reaction of people across the country.

Their findings will be broadcast on local radio, local websites and regional TV throughout the day.

An online interactive map providing an on-going local information source and the full survey results will both be available at bbc.co.uk/facingthecuts.

This is the first time BBC English Regions has brought together its local radio, regional TV and online services to deliver an editorial campaign simultaneously on the same day.

David Holdsworth, Controller, English Regions, explains: "Public sector cuts will start to bite soon and affect all our lives which makes this is an important and developing story for local communities.

"With a nationwide network of local radio stations, local websites, regional TV news programmes and special reporters, BBC English Regions is uniquely placed to enable a detailed debate at grass roots level about an issue of intense interest to our audience."

Notes to Editors

Please credit the survey findings to BBC English Regions.

Please note regarding the survey:

The results apply to England only.

The responses analysed came from only top tier and single tier authorities (ie county councils, unitary authorities, metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs – not district councils).

The overall response rate was 62% (93/150) but was lower for individual questions.

Several of the questions ask for estimates or cover a future period (three to five years) which has been interpreted differently by different respondents.

Councils manage their budget figures in different ways, including the divisions between spending areas, and many of the respondents have added qualifications to their answers which are not taken into account in the overall analysis.

Council spending is complex and subject to considerable uncertainty in the current political circumstances. Given that, and the various qualifiers listed above, it is important to emphasise that these results are necessarily broad-brush and intended to be illustrative rather than offer a definitive picture of councils' spending plans.

BBC Birmingham Press Office

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