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100 jobs could go in Southampton City Council in budget chaos
SOUTHAMPTON has been warned to brace itself for sweeping council cuts to jobs and services.
At least 100 more council workers could be axed as finance bosses predict the city faces its worst cash crisis.
It comes as the council’s Labour leaders scrapped a planned budget announcement to finalise the cuts.
But a secret draft copy of their proposals has been seen by the Daily Echo. In it, 100 more council job losses have been highlighted as a way of saving cash.
Labour bosses have cancelled meetings due to take place today with staff, who were to be consulted over drastic budget plans for next year.
Finance boss Councillor Simon Letts said the draft budget had been postponed so the council would have a clearer picture of its finances and more time to prepare the cuts, hikes in charges and redundancies that will be needed to plug a £26m deficit.
It is understood that at least 100 staff have already been identified for redundancy. This comes on top of an announcement last month that 200 temporary council employees would lose their jobs in the coming years.
Opposition Tories said the Labour administration was now in “chaos” and had no excuse for the “unprecedented” delay.
Cllr Letts said the unitary authority was facing a “perfect storm” of “unique circumstances” that had put it in the “premier league” of councils hit by cuts.
He said the council was facing its worst ever budget deficit. He said: “There will be no good news. There will be no new initiatives, no flashy announcements. There will be redundancies. We’ve cut out the fat, cut into the flesh down to the bone. This is (now) removing limbs.”
The council spends around £500m a year including schools and benefits. The annual budget once these are stripped out is around £190m. Cllr Letts said Government funding was being slashed more than thought and costs were going up due to inflation and greater demands on council services while the civic centre coffers had been run down to minimum £5m reserves.
He said the council has taken more than its fair share of austerity cuts, had done all it could to reorganise and become leaner, and said “significant extra charges” would have to be brought in alongside deep cuts.
“We are not choosing to do this. We are compelled to do this,” he said.
He said the cost of child social care alone had rocketed by £4m, due to heavier case loads and reliance on agency and temporary staff, which he blamed on the pay cuts by the previous Tory administration which are now being reversed.
Cllr Letts said the council was waiting on news of Government grants, including a £8m bid for recycling fund cash, and was attempting to negotiate further savings with Capita, the firm that runs a swathe of council services for a £36m a year charge.
He added he wanted to make sure different de par tments had a chance to see how proposed cuts would affect each other, which would produce a “better budget at the end”.
And he said a deal to restore staff pay had paved the way for better industrial relations so staff could meet bosses face to face and suggest ideas of savings from the “bottom-up”.
Opposition Tory leader Councillor Royston Smith said: “This is unprecedented in the history of the council.
There is no excuse for slipping this budget. They’ve known since February the savings they needed to make. We took £20m out last year. They’ve added nearly £3m for pay restoration and have made it worse for themselves.
“It shows there is no leadership and they’ve not got a grip on the task ahead of them. They are in chaos. They just will not take the decisions.”
The council was due to publish its draft budget proposals this week.
The date has now been put back a month for meetings with staff on November 12.
Those facing redundancy will be redeployed while permanent positions are sought.