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Redundancy pay offs to cost cash strapped council £4m
7:37am Tuesday 13th November 2012 in Politics
About £4m has been set aside for redundancy pay-offs at Southampton City Council.
Around one quarter of the 279 posts to go in the biggest cuts in jobs and services the city has seen are vacant and the council hopes to redeploy a further 50 staff.
But the rest of the job cuts, revealed last night, will see workers shown the door through redundancies and early retirements.
It comes on top of Labour’s plans to let 200 staff on temporary contracts go in coming years.
Adrian Baker, a regional organiser from the GMB union, said: “This is a massive blow, not only for the staff of Southampton City Council but also the residents of Southampton, with those least able to defend themselves hardest hit.
“Be in no doubt, following the last round of cuts, those still in place within Southampton City Council had to pick up a huge amount of work to cover for those made redundant and it will simply get worse this time round for those who remain.”
Cllr Don Thomas from the breakaway Labour Councillors Against The Cuts group, called on the administration to “stop cutting” and “start fighting” the funding cuts.
The councillor, who sits on the Coxford and District Youth Project, said the budget would be “disastrous” for the next generation and accused former Labour colleagues of failing to stand up for the people who voted for them.
The council, which spends more than £500m a year, including running schools and paying out benefits, faces a budget gap of £58m over the next three years.
Under the cost-cutting plan £4m will be slashed from the adult care budget, and the city archaeology unit will be shut down.
Labour has budgeted for the city’s weekly bin collections to be axed, with the loss of 12 jobs, if the council fails to win a bid for £8m from a Government recycling fund.
Many motorists will be made to pay to park outside their homes with an end to free residents’ permits. A plan to bring in the controversial policy was scrapped four years ago after a Daily Echo campaign.
Charges will be introduced for evening and district centre car parking. Fees for burials, cremations and rat catchers will be hiked by five per cent.
Library hours will be reduced and funding for HIV/Aids support services will also be cut, risking the “viability” of the organisations that provide them, according to council officials.
Elsewhere, travellers will be charged more for electricity and water at the Kanes Hill site.
The personal number plates of the mayor’s car will be put up for sale, and two council directorates will be merged.
Councillors’ allowances will be reviewed when the budget is set in February, a £105,000 director post will be deleted and two of the eight Cabinet posts axed to save £26,000.
Negotiations have taken place with Capita, the private firm paid £36m a year to run a swathe of council servic es, to save £3.5m next year.
Cabinet member for resources Cllr Simon Letts, who previously compared the cost-cutting to removing limbs, said: “No one gets into local politics to cut services and drafting 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 the rest of us.”
He appealed to residents and council staff to come forward with suggestions during a budget consultation in coming months.
Cllr Letts added: “Savings have to come from somewhere – but the purpose of the consultation is now to ask whether we have made the right choices.”
Council leader Cllr Richard Williams was at a meeting of the city’s pensioner’s forum just before the budget was released and refused to tell them whether they would be made pay more council tax.
He claimed he was legally barred from telling them a controversial ten per cent council tax discount, that critics claim unfairly benefits the rich, will be axed. Police special constables will also lose a council tax break and everyone will see bills rise two per cent.
Labour says a Government offer of short-term funding to keep down council tax bills would leave the council with a larger deficit in future years.
Cllr Williams insisted: “This budget is painful, but necessary. We have managed to safeguard the most essential services, increase income equitably and where reductions have to be made, they have been made with care and with regard to maintaining the best possible service for the most possible people.”
Staff who took part in strikes and industrial action that left one million uncollected bin bags rotting across the city last summer will see most of their pay cuts restored, a cost to the council rising from £0.6m next year to £2.2m, but a potential £12m union legal action will be set aside.
Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said workers facing the sack had been left “upset and angry” when told in meetings yesterday but he said they did not blame the Labour administration.
He said there remained “hostility” towards Tory leader Cllr Royston Smith, who cut their pay in a bid to protect 400 jobs.
He said a mass meeting of union members would be held on Thursday to agree a response to the job cuts. More industrial action has not been ruled out, he said.
Unite’s Mark Wood said unions would “work tirelessly to protect as many jobs and services as possible and campaign for a fair deal for Southampton.”
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