4:00pm Monday 12th November 2012
By Matt Smith
UP to 300 jobs will be slashed at Southampton City Council in the authority's worst ever financial crisis.
Labour council leaders have this afternoon confirmed the depth of the massive cuts they plan to make to plug a budget deficit. The jobs cull is the largest ever.
The council's youth service, its “Our House” residential children's home and its archaeology unit will be shut down.
The brunt of the job losses will hit children's services where 126 jobs are at risk.
The council's 2013/14 spending plans will also see swingeing cuts to the adult care budget and the future of weekly bin collections is hanging in the balance, depending on a Government grant.
Labour, who pledged to keep redundancies to a minimum, last month postponed releasing their budget plans to get a clearer picture of the council's finances and more time to prepare the cuts and hikes in charges.
Finance boss Councillor Simon Letts warned then that the council had already cut out the fat and flesh down to the bone and was facing the prospect of “removing limbs”.
He said: "No one gets into local politics to cut services and drfating this budget has been a painful process.
"We have had to separate the 'good to haves' from the 'absolutely necessary' and we do feel that we have managed to protect services to the most vulnerable people in the city while making savings that will undoubtedly affect what the council can offer to the rest of us."
A mass meeting of union members has been called for Thursday to decide what action to take in response to the job losses. Industrial action has not been ruled out.
Labour and the unions have blamed the dire state of the council's finances on the decision of the previous Conservative administration and Government funding cuts.
But Conservatives insist they would have found alternative ways to fund the deficit, through outsourcing, sharing services with other council and not restoring pay cuts they brought in to protect jobs.
Labour has already announced that 200 temporary workers at the council will lose their jobs in the coming years to free up potential roles for permanent staff facing redundancy.
Unison branch Secretary, Mike Tucker said: “While work starts on the new Arts Complex, which is being mainly funded by the council, across the city youth centres will be closing.
“Hundreds of council workers, youth workers, library workers, child care professionals, park keepers, archaeologists, and social workers, all face the sack.
“Their futures are being put at risk by the economic policy of the Conservatives.”
Tory group leader Royston Smith said: “It's nonsense. We left a £6.9m underspend and did not raid reserves. It's a weak and dishonest argument.”
Unite branch secretary Mark Wood added: “As the Government sits on its hands when hundreds of Southampton Ford jobs are shipped to Turkey and as it continues on its failed economic strategy creating zero growth, the future looks very bleak indeed for our city.”
“Unite and Unison will work tirelessly to protect as many jobs and services as possible and campaign for a fair deal for Southampton.”
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