'Cash Strapped' Council To Shed 170 Jobs

Up to 170 jobs at cash-strapped Dudley Council are under threat of redundancy as part of wide-reaching proposals to try and save £25million over the next three years.

This year’s budget proposals impact on more than 110 full-time equivalent jobs, rising to 170 by 2019/20, the authority has confirmed as the council’s cabinet gets ready to rubber-stamp a series of brutal cost-saving measures this week.

Council bosses say the cuts are necessary as the authority has lost £76million in government funding since 2010 – which is forecast to rise to more than £92million over the next three years.

Councillor David Sparks, Dudley’s cabinet member for finance, said: “These are unprecedented times we find ourselves in as the result of very significant cuts to our funding, and inevitably there will be some redundancies.

“No decisions on compulsory or voluntary redundancies have been made but we will look at this in a pragmatic and caring way, working with staff and the trade unions throughout the process.

“We are going to pay particular attention to the impact of redundancies on the efficiency of the organisation and the cost to the council tax payer, this will be a big factor.”

As well as job losses – a raft of proposed cuts across virtually all departments have been drawn up to help the authority balance the books.

Cost-saving measures include putting up car parking charges, scaling back maintenance in parks, closed churchyards and open spaces and stopping entirely the maintenance of bowling greens, hiking charges to use park pitches and open spaces by 20 per cent, closing certain public toilets, integrating the teenage pregnancy programme with social care and public health, restructuring the youth support service, increasing fees and introducing new charges for environmental health services.

Borough halls and leisure centres are also under review – with 2017/18 savings of £150,000 pencilled in for halls and £338,000 for leisure centres.The borough currently boasts three leisure centres – in Stourbridge, Dudley and Halesowen – but rumours have been rife that at least one may fall victim to the cuts.

Budget papers also include a controversial bid to stop funding school crossing patrols to help save £375,000 next year.

A £100,000 cut to the £250,000 grant the council usually gives to Dudley Zoo is also earmarked.

The council is also looking to review ICT services to help save more than £1million next year as well as putting a stop to staff car parking passes to save £100,000 in 2017/18 and reducing staff mileage rates from 55p to 45p a mile.

Dementia Gateway services are also under review and a host of savings earmarked which will affect how care services are delivered.

Dudley Council leader, councillor Pete Lowe, said many of the savings aim to transform the way the council does business “to try to protect jobs and essential frontline services wherever possible”.

A 3.99 per cent council tax increase is also proposed - including a two per cent precept for adult social care - to raise an extra £4million a year.

Authority chiefs, however, say borough residents will still pay one of the lowest council tax rates in the country.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Conservatives, said: "Due to the no overall control situation we find ourselves in – no single party can dictate the outcome of this budget.

"The Conservative Group through the shadow cabinet team have tried to be constructive and make suggestions which will improve the medium and long-term financial prospects for the council.

"We have throughout the budget process acted as a responsible opposition so a legal and balanced budget can be reached.

"However, we still think far more needs to be done and will over the next few weeks be proposing some changes I hope the other parties will agree to.

"It’s in the interests of all to ensure Dudley balances the books as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile - councillor Paul Brothwood, leader of Dudley’s UKIP group, is calling for councillors to hand back expensive IT equipment to help cut costs.

Purple party members on the council say £32,000 has been spent on devices, with annual charges running into £16,000 per year, and cllr Brothwood said: “At a time when we are making difficult decisions as to what services need to be cut we see certain councillors have been getting home broadband, smart phones, iPads and even a digital camera.


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