Yesterday proved to be a black day for Southampton as the Ordnance Survey, one of the city's largest employers, announced 300 job cuts while the cash-strapped city council revealed plans to increase council tax, axe jobs and cut services in an effort to save £7m...

MORE than 130 jobs are set to be axed by civic chiefs in Southampton - but residents are being warned they still face soaring council tax rises.

Fifty-seven workers will be made redundant under the proposals - and a further 78 currently vacant posts scrapped.

The cuts were revealed exclusively by the Daily Echo on Monday when the paper broke the news that the city council's ruling Labour group was meeting to decide how to fill a £5m hole in next year's budget.

Yesterday civic leaders gave the Daily Echo an exclusive detailed account of where the axe would fall and why measures had to be taken.

The cost-cutting measures centre on management roles in leisure, care and transport. Grants to voluntary groups could be slashed by ten per cent.

Residents are being told they will suffer tax rises, with the average householder forking out at least £80 more from next March.

It is thought council tax charges will increase by at least 9.9 per cent, and even up to 20 per cent, if the government reduces funding.

Civic leaders hope the proposed cuts will save about £7m over the next financial year.

Councillor Peter Marsh-Jenks, the Cabinet member responsible for finance, admitted residents could see services effected.

"You can't remove people from an organisation and not have an impact on services. How we manage that is the key to this."

The planned changes include bringing in private partners to help run the city's Quays, Bitterne and Chamberlayne leisure complexes or to centralise management of them.

Mr Marsh-Jenks claimed talks with trade union leaders would take place before that happened to ensure workers' jobs were protected.

He said the cuts were not the result of mismanagement but caused by external pressures, including rises in pay, National Insurance and insurance premiums.

The government will announce next month if it will further reduce funding to local authorities in the south, by diverting it to those in the north.

One of the biggest changes drawn up is a huge savings initiative targeting car-driving staff.

Annual payments of £950 to senior managers are likely to be scrapped with mileage rates adjusted, and parking charges for hundreds of workers increased.

Union leaders warned it could lead to the equivalent of a big pay cut for some staff.

Mike Tucker, branch secretary of Unison, said: "I think it's the worst cutback of jobs and working conditions at the council in living memory.

"Also, people who work in leisure centres could suffer worsening of working conditions than they already have."

"The changes in car allowances will effect hundreds of people and could result in a £1,000 pay cut for some."

Mr Marsh-Jenks said: "No-one likes cutting services, nor making staff redundant, nor increasing tax.

"There will be consultation and a scrutiny process before the full council takes final decisions next February.

"Strenuous efforts will be made to re-deploy employees of the council whose jobs are under threat."

The ruling Labour group's meeting on Monday night discussed the cuts.

Council leader Councillor June Bridle said plans to reduce grants to voluntary groups was one that sparked most debate.

"This was among the issues that was talked about the longest and was one of the hardest decisions to take," she said.

Other cutbacks include restructuring management in care for older people, for the city's parks and in the transport department.

The £36,000 spent on Christmas lights for the city could scrapped, grass-cutting at cemeteries reduced and the trading standards department budget cut in a bid to save cash.

Mayoral events have also been targeted in a bid to save £8,000 by only serving tea, coffee and biscuits rather than buffets.

Royston Smith, from the council's Conservative group, said: "For them to be able to make savings in health and social care is very surprising and the cuts in lifelong learning is the equivalent of funding 30 new teachers."

Peter Wakeford, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "With leisure to be hit again is of great concern.

"The fact the vacant positions will be deleted does make some sense."

George Melrose, leader of the Liberal group, said: "There are vacancies at the moment where departments are not fully staffed and people there are not able to perform properly because of it."

The plans will be put forward to various cross-party scrutiny panels in the coming weeks before the full council meets in February to decide the budget and council tax rate.

Talks will also be held with unions to discuss the redundancies.

A council tax increase of 7.9 per cent was introduced earlier this year, with typical band D households currently paying £833.

That could rise to at least £916 next year.

The council employs more than 9,000 staff, with about half of those in the education sector.

Council bosses insisted new projects they considered essential would still go ahead.

They include:

Extension of the neighbourhood warden scheme to the whole of the city.

City-wide collection service for recyclable material

Increases in child adoption allowances.

Improving library services.