City prepares to cut 600 more jobs

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A YORKSHIRE council has warned of more job losses over the next four years in order to reach its target of cutting the total number of posts by around 2,500 by 2015.

Leeds Council has already seen 1,000 staff leave under a voluntary retirement scheme and more than 400 more are expected to go this year.

Yesterday it was confirmed another 500-600 posts would be lost next year and more jobs will go in the years up to 2015. The council’s leaders said they could not rule out compulsory redundancies.

The estimated 600 posts need to go as the authority struggles to balance the books in the face of big cuts in Government grants.

The council needs to make £55m savings this financial year on top of the £90m of cuts in 2011/12. Another £43m will need to be saved in 2013/14.

The authority said rising adult social care costs, increased numbers of children needing care, landfill tax bills, fuel and energy prices and inflation are the major budget pressures.

So far job losses at the council have been on a voluntary basis but compulsory redundancies in the latest round of cuts have not been ruled out.

Labour councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds Council, said: “The scale of the challenge we face is massive. Government funding is being slashed at the same time that demand for services is rapidly increasing.

“We had nearly 30,000 referrals to children’s services last year, we have an ageing population and a population with rising expectations of the care they will receive when they need it.

“We are continuing to prioritise funding for our elderly and our young people, but we also need to ensure we are securing investment and developing partnerships that will deliver jobs and homes.

“Help is simply not going to come from the Government so it is vital we take action here in Leeds to make those ambitions a reality.

“The only way we will really find innovative ways to make the most of rapidly reducing funding is by changing the way we ourselves do business.

“That is why this budget places much more emphasis on working with our partners in the voluntary and private sectors, as well as encouraging closer working between different council departments.”

While the £55m savings are needed to balance the books for the year 2012/13, the council anticipates the need to save a further £43m the following year, 2013/14.

Mr Wakefield said council leaders were trying hard to keep job losses to a minimum.

“Despite the massive financial challenges we are facing, we have tried very hard to keep any job losses to a minimum.

“Where we have had to cut jobs, so far all have been on a voluntary basis, either through our early leavers initiative or through voluntary severance.

“We still have huge savings to make, so unfortunately we cannot rule out compulsory redundancies at some stage, although such decisions will not be taken lightly.”

A report to be discussed by the council’s executive board next Wednesday warns that further reductions in posts will be needed in 2013/14 and 2014/15 in order to reach a target of 2,500.

The report says: “Our approach will mean that staff will leave the authority from across the whole range of services and it will be necessary therefore to manage this very carefully and make arrangements to retrain and redeploy staff where appropriate.”

A council spokesman said the staff reductions were expected to be achieved through a combination of continuing the current recruitment freeze, with replacements of leavers restricted to essential posts only.