Manchester City Council proposes cutting 830 jobs

Manchester Town Hall
Image caption The plans include proposals to move departments into the newly refurbished Town Hall extension

Plans to cut 830 jobs, raise council tax and close libraries have been announced by Manchester City Council in a bid to address a funding gap of £80m.

The proposals could also see bus lane fines "more actively" pursued, bonfire events stopped and departments merged.

The job losses follow the cutting of 2,000 posts in the past two years and would mean the council workforce had been reduced by almost 30% since 2011.

Council leader Sir Richard Leese said the budget cuts were "inescapable".

Cuts of £170m are already due to be made between 2011 and 2013.

A council spokesman said the additional savings, to be made by 2015, were necessary due to a "combination of central funding cuts and unavoidable cost pressures".

He said that in the 2011-13 financial settlements, the Labour-led council had been "the fifth hardest hit local authority in the country, despite having the fourth highest level of deprivation".

He added the settlement for 2013-15 saw "a reduction of 8.2% over the two years and Manchester had been handed the biggest percentage cut of any of England's core cities and the largest of any large metropolitan area outside the capital".

'No longer sustainable'

Sir Richard said the settlement meant "the council has to make very real cuts and at the same time make fundamental changes to the way it operates".

The budget plans would see council tax in Manchester, which has been frozen for three years, raised by 3.7% - an equivalent of £2.68 a month to the average household.

The council spokesman said a government grant, which was offered to maintain the freeze, was not taken as it would not have covered the amount needed and as such, the freeze was "no longer sustainable".

Under the plans, Broadway, Levenshulme, Miles Platting and Withington swimming pools would all close to "avoid high ongoing maintenance and running costs", though three new facilities - at Hough End, Levenshulme and Beswick - will open as replacements by 2015.

Five libraries - at Burnage, Fallowfield, Miles Platting, New Moston and Northenden - will be replaced with "outreach libraries or community book collections", while Levenshulme Library will be moved into the same building as the new swimming pool.

The proposals would also see the council "more actively pursue bus lane enforcement" to raise money for environmental, highways and transport improvements, make changes to city centre parking prices.

There are also plans to charge an entry fee for or cancel annual bonfire events.

'Imaginative restructuring'

In the council's Targeted and Specialist Services, the Children's, Adults and Public Health directorates would merge and an emphasis would be put on "early intervention and prevention... before more costly interventions are required later".

Cuts are also proposed in the council's finance, personnel, legal, procurement and corporate property departments, with staff being moved into the Town Hall extension, which is undergoing refurbishment.

The spokesman said the council hoped to achieve the job cuts through "voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement".

Sir Richard said there were "glimmers of light in the gloom through new and innovative ways of working and through some well planned investment".

"Imaginative restructuring of services to promote better integration will mean better outcomes for many of our most vulnerable residents," he said.

Councillor Simon Wheale, the leader of Manchester's Liberal Democrats, said the cuts could have been lessened had the council done more to reduce administration costs and taken the council tax grant.

"They should be taking the money from the government, which would be an extra £3m, and they should be looking to save in an even way on the sort of expenditure they are putting into administration and back office cuts," he said.

"That way, they can save that money and save the facilities."

The plans will be considered by the council executive on 23 January, before a series of consultations take place, and the completed budget is due to be approved on 6 March.

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