Council staff in limbo over job cuts as 'silent savings' get underway

BEHIND the parking fees, council tax rises and highways fund cuts, a raft of silent savings will see the county council claw back millions of pounds.

Savings which directly affect the public have hit the headlines, but behind closed doors at County Hall, new ways of working and “efficiencies” will help save a large chunk of the £46m target.

The council announced the extra cuts after its Government grant was slashed by 12 per cent.

But behind the services where savings are being applied are workers, who face uncertainty as they wait to hear about the future of their jobs.

The council is proposing savings which may reduce the number of staff who deal with ICT equipment, finances and human resources.

It also plans to continue saving money, a total of £360,000 between 2013 and 2017, through a contract with Carillion and Capita to manage some of its facilities, such as school catering, cleaning services and the upkeep of buildings owned by the council, such as County Hall.

The council will also save £250,000 through cutting management and administration staff in its children, education and families department.

Unison official Barbara Harper said: “There is a level of uncertainty, because we’re having to save a lot more than expected, but until we have had our budget meeting with the leader and officers, we won’t know what it means.

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“I would hope ourmembers have confidence that we will do our best for everyone involved.”

She said officials were due to meet with the administration in early February to discuss the proposals.

Opposition leader, Lib Dem councillor Zoe Patrick, said: “What we are finding is that where they have cut services, with less staff those services are sometimes struggling.”

Council leader Ian Hudspeth admitted redundancies were not being ruled out.

He said: “Where possible we’re going to avoid redundancies. We will work closely with the unions when we’re looking at restructuring and we will try to remove as much management as we can.”

Liz Brighouse, leader of the county council’s Labour group, said: “Of course there will be redundancies. Most of the money the county council spends is spent directly on salaries, so cuts on this scale will result in people losing their jobs.”

On Thursday, the council’s five scrutiny committees met back-to-back over 10 hours to debate the finer points of the budget proposals. The draft budget will go to full council in February, where opposition groups are expected to submit alternative budgets.

The £46m of savings, which need to be reached by 2017, come on top of £119m of savings announced in 2010, most of which have already been achieved.

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