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Hampshire County Council may have to axe another 1,800 jobs
HAMPSHIRE County Council could be forced to slash 1,800 more jobs in the latest round of cuts, it was claimed today.
Council chiefs have confirmed their initial targets to save £80m will now go up to £90m because of further reductions in Government funding.
It means the county’s Tory chiefs are once again looking at voluntary redundancies from its 40,000-strong workforce, despite cutting 1,800 jobs and £130m from the budget in the past two years.
The jobs cull – branded “reckless” by unions – will begin at the end of this month with voluntary redundancy being offered to some staff and all senior managers within the council.
Council leader Roy Perry said the intention is to shave off a further 10 per cent of the senior management team – on top of the 25 per cent who have already gone – to achieve the budget by April 2015.
Speaking to the Daily Echo, Cllr Finch said: “The economy is in a bad way and we do need to look to make savings wherever possible.
However we have looked at the numbers and we do not believe it is in our best interest to cut close to 2,000 jobs.
“These people have built up skills working for the council over the years and once they are gone we will not get them back. The same goes for the services we cut.
“We feel that the people of Hampshire deserve the best services we can possibly give them.”
A Cabinet report confirms county leaders will discuss redundancies at a meeting on Monday.
The report said: “It is anticipated that once again voluntary redundancy exercises will be carried out across most services and by the time Cabinet considers this report these initiatives will have begun in different parts of our corporate services activity and is being rolled out across other departments.”
But unions have called for the authority’s £400m-plus reserves to be used to avoid the cuts.
Tim Cutter, branch secretary for Hampshire Unison, said cutting 1,800 jobs would be an “absolute catastrophe”.
He said: “If this is the case it would be a reckless move by the council at a time when they have £419m in reserve.
“It would mean the council would not be able to provide frontline services, in my view, for the elderly, vulnerable and other essential services that people really need.”
Earlier this year leader Roy Perry said £10m has been earmarked in reserves for bigger payouts to staff who take voluntary redundancy.
This is the same sum set aside in 2011-12 when 800 voluntary redundancies were taken and 600 posts frozen.
Cllr Finch said UKIP was working on a plan to find the money without cutting jobs and services, but declined to reveal details.
He added: “We believe we have identified areas where we can save jobs and services and still make the savings.”
What county boss says
COUNCIL leader Roy Perry described the situation as “a big challenge” but insisted it was one the council was in a strong position to tackle.
He told the Daily Echo: “We haven’t taken our foot off the pedal in the work to reshape services to secure savings and £75m towards this target has already been identified – mainly through changing and embracing new ways of working, including sharing services with other public sector partners.
“The use of reserves continues to play an important part of the strategy to close the gap. They are being used to pay for the transformation of services and to drive out efficiencies for this
next stage of savings.”
Cllr Perry went on to say he planned to avoid any hike in council tax next year, instead keeping it at the same rate for a fifth year in a row and one of the lowest in the country.
He added that it would be “difficult” until closer to the budget early next year, to be precise on
“About 25 per cent of our spending is on staff salaries, and voluntary redundancies are being offered to some staff from the end of this month and to all senior managers. We are seeking a
reduction of around 10 per cent in senior management, on top of the 25 per cent we have already made.
“The VR policy has proved to be a very effective way to reduce staff numbers, and through effective targeting, minimising the numbers of compulsory redundancies.
“Our staff numbers have reduced by around 1,800 over the last two years as part of the £130m
savings and there have been only 20 compulsory redundancies. It should also be noted that this
council is not seeking to make any major outsourcing of services; we plan to stay in business and protect jobs as far as possible to give the best local services to our community, while living
within our means."
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