Up to 500 jobs to go at Middlesbrough Council

Ray Mallon Ray Mallon said Middlesbrough faced "dark times"

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Up to 500 jobs are expected to be lost after Middlesbrough Council approved budget cuts of £50m over four years.

The authority, which employs about 10,000 people, said it faced an 8.8% cut in government grants.

Elected Independent mayor Ray Mallon said the town faced "dark times", with reduced services, higher parking charges and a pay freeze for staff.

But Tory councillor Hazel Pearson said the council had to play its part in cutting the country's deficit.

At a meeting on Monday night, the council set a budget for the next financial year of £136.5m, with a commitment to save £13.8m over the next 12 months.

A pay freeze has been imposed on all staff earning above £21,000, with those earning below that figure guaranteed a £250 rise.

'Too savage'

Mr Mallon said: "We are probably going to lose between 400 and 500 over the next few years, so the pain is here to stay for some considerable time.

"These cuts are too savage, too deep and too quick and if we don't get a Plan B we will be in a very dark position."

The council plans to increase charges for parking, access to leisure facilities and some care packages as well as reduce the opening times of libraries and other public buildings.

But Conservative councillor Hazel Pearson said: "If you have a debt it has to be paid and this country is more in debt than it has ever been.

"I don't want any grandchildren of mine paying that debt, I want it to be finished as quickly as possible.

"I don't like the budget that we have got at present, but we have inherited it and it has to be paid."

The Unison union said the area would be adversely affected by the job losses because of its greater dependence on public sector employment.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "In calculating the settlement ministers have ensured that formula grant funding per head is higher in those parts of the country with the highest level of need."

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