Councils in England announce 2,200 more job cuts

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More than 2,000 jobs are to be cut at two county councils in a bid to make multimillion-pound savings.

About 1,200 jobs are set to be axed at Hampshire County Council under plans to save £55m for 2011/12.

It blamed the cuts on a £30.9m (14.3%) reduction in its government grant.

Meanwhile, Norfolk County Council said it would axe about 1,000 jobs in the next year. On Tuesday, East Sussex County Council revealed plans to shed up to 200 jobs.

The public service union Unison said it was a "disgrace" that hundreds more council workers would be added to "growing dole queues".

Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "The government's cuts are taking a terrible toll on council workers and services."

However, the government said it had "delivered a tough by fair settlement" as it aimed to drive down the nation's deficit.

In Hampshire, staff and unions are being consulted over the job cuts, which affect 8% of the workforce.

The authority says it plans to save £7m by cutting senior management and implementing a recruitment freeze and save £10m by renegotiating contracts.

'Financial challenges'

Councillor Ken Thornber, leader of the Conservative-controlled authority, said: "There can be no debate over whether or not we make cuts, the withdrawal of government funding to meet the national debt leaves us without that choice.

"The issue is how we face up to these financial challenges, while laying strong foundations for the difficult years beyond.

"Included within this programme are plans to reduce our pay bill, which makes up 51% of our overall budget."

He said the council hoped to achieve this through voluntary measures and minimise compulsory redundancies.

"But sadly there will be some staff who will face compulsory redundancy," he added.

Other savings include a reduction in the county council subsidy it gives commercial bus operators to run less-used services.

Budgets for child protection, highways maintenance and schools will be protected, the authority said.

'Most difficult' period

The budget is due to be agreed by full council on 24 February.

Meanwhile Norfolk County Council announced 1,000 jobs would be axed - about 10% of its workforce.

But it said some cost-cutting plans would be dropped or amended. This included keeping a threatened subsidy for over-16s travel to school and a smaller than proposed cut to funds to help keep older people living in their homes.

Image caption,
Norfolk County Council consulted residents over service cuts

The Conservative-run council leader Derrick Murphy is to recommend to cabinet on Monday the revised package to cut £155m from budgets over three years.

The council said it had drawn up the plans following its "Big Conversation" consultation, to which more than 9,000 residents responded.

Mr Murphy said reductions in services were unavoidable amid a wider financial crisis.

"This budget has been prepared in the context of one of the most difficult financial periods faced in the county council's long history, if not the most difficult," he said.

But he said the revised package was designed to protect vulnerable people as far as possible and deliver the promised freeze in council tax.

East Sussex County Council has drawn up plans to shed between 150 and 200 jobs in 2011-12 (3.5%-4.7% of the workforce) as it looks to save £100m over the next four years.

All departments at the Conservative-led authority will have to make cuts, with £37m being saved in the first year alone.

'Robbing communities'

Council leaders said further job losses would be expected in the following three years but that the scale of cuts was broadly in line with their planning.

Commenting on cuts at the three councils, Unison's Mr Prentis said: "The job losses are a bitter blow to families who face inflation hikes, soaring prices and the prospect of their mortgages going through the roof when interest rates rise.

"This government is robbing communities of hope for the future and vital services that people depend on."

Elsewhere, staff at Dorset County Council will have to take 12 unpaid leave days a year under plans to save £55m by 2013/14.

The Conservative-run authority has already announced that 500 jobs are set to go while pay for unsociable working will be reduced.

Meanwhile, plans to cut 2,000 jobs at Manchester City Council were formally approved earlier.

The Labour-run council announced last week it needed to reduce its workforce by about 17% after it said changes to local authority grants left a large hole in its finances.

Council leader Sir Richard Leese said it had no option after a "truly shocking" 25% cut to its budget.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said its settlement ensured the most vulnerable communities were protected.

"If councils share back office services, join forces to procure, cut out the non-jobs and root out the over-spends then they can protect frontline services," a spokesman said.

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