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Southampton City Council puts 200 jobs at risk as it faces plugging a £30m black hole
ALMOST 200 jobs could be axed in the latest round of multi-million pound council cuts, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Civic chiefs in Southampton are faced with plugging a £30.8m black hole for the next year alone and are proposing savage cuts including scrapping services for people with learning difficulties and even closing a care home.
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Today council leaders have been accused of “betraying” city residents, having promised they would not axe jobs just two years ago before coming to power.
And there is likely to be even worse to come, with the cash-strapped council being forced to find a further £17million of cuts by November.
The Labour-run authority has had to make a series of swingeing cutbacks in recent years, with more than 300 jobs and more than £30million of services axed over the past two financial years.
Bosses say they have been hit by a series of crippling cuts to the grant they receive from Government, which have forced them to slash services and jobs.
Council bosses are having to find £30.8million of savings for 2015/16 alone – and opposition councillors are warning that the situation will become dire by April next year.
Labour chiefs have managed to plug £4.5million of the £30.8million budget gap through money allocated for the 2014/15 budget but not spent, and Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) funds put aside to use against bad debt but never utilized.
Now they have announced a series of proposals as part of a “mini-budget” that will wipe off a further £7.7m, which could be given the green light in September.
The plans include closing Woodside Lodge residential care home in Maybush, which offers care for people aged over 65 who suffer from dementia, which could lead to 29 job losses.
The city’s kennels could also be closed, while day services for people with learning difficulties could be axed with the loss of 59 jobs and the service offices in Kentish Road, Shirley, closed.
The council hopes major changes to the way highways improvements are funded will save £2million.
And while each council department currently has its own business support team which helps with human resources and personnel issues, they will be cut to a single team, saving £800,000 a year but costing 83 jobs.
In total 195 jobs are at risk, 47 of which are currently vacant.
Civic chiefs say they have brought forward the cut proposals so they can make £1.3million of savings in the current financial year, while their “mini-budget” proposals could save £8.4milion in 2016/17 and £8.5million in 2017/18.
But even after the “mini-budget” and underspend funding they are left with a £17.3m headache – and they need to find that money by November.
Council chiefs have refused to say where the axe could fall later in the year, although they did say that only children’s safeguarding is considered safe.
The giant black hole in the city’s finances are just a flavour of what is to come, with council leaders projecting they will be forced to make a staggering £46.2million of savings by 2016/17 and £66.5million by 2017/18.
If the budget is approved by the full council next Wednesday (July 16), consultation will begin before a final decision on the “mini-budget” is made in September.
The proposals for how the council will find the remaining £17.3.million will then be announced in November, and approved in February.
City council leader Simon Letts says the authority hopes to raise large parts of that by selling off council properties, such as Marlands House, which will be fully vacated later this year.
He said: “I think you should make some decisions as soon as you are legally able to, so rather than wait until February we are getting more than £1million in in-year savings that we won’t have to find next year.
“Southampton has been disproportionately hit in comparison to more affluent areas – over five years we have seen £148 cuts per head as opposed to £28 a head in Winchester.”
And council finances chief Stephen Barnes-Andrews added: “If the Government is going to carry on cutting our grant funding, we are going to have to carry on cutting services.”