Council to shed 570 more jobs in hunt for £55m cuts

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ONE of Yorkshire’s biggest councils has announced plans to shed another 570 jobs in an attempt to make savings of £55m in the next financial year.

Sheffield Council announced its budget proposals yesterday, with leading councillors and officers saying they “took no pleasure” in announcing redundancies.

It is hoped many of the job cuts will be achieved through voluntary redundancy. Unions said last night they had been consulted and were “satisfied”.

The authority changed from Liberal Democrat to Labour control last May and leader Julie Dore said she had been grappling with the budget since then.

In 2011/12 the council had to save £80m and cut around 800 jobs. It faces continued cuts until at least 2015/16 when the budget will have been reduced by £170m.

Coun Dore, who sent a letter to every Sheffield household in Sheffield to consult residents about cuts, said councils had been put in an “unfair” position by the Government.

But she confirmed the authority would take the Government’s grant to freeze council tax next year – despite the long-term financial implications.

Coun Dore said: “I believe we have been dealt an unfair hand by the Government, but we have taken extremely difficult decisions to deliver a fair deal for the people of Sheffield.

“We have ensured that we have protected the most vulnerable and at the same time we have protected the services that the people of Sheffield rely on and enjoy.”

John Mothersole, Sheffield Council’s chief executive, said the budget had been managed so that the heaviest burden fell on “back office” functions like information technology services.

He added: “Services like adult social care will be reduced by five per cent, while IT will see a 26 per cent cut, human resources a 15 per cent cut and business strategy a 29 per cent drop.

“The job losses we are announcing today are at the top end of the range we had anticipated, and we expect at least another year of cuts after this.”

Mr Mothersole said the council would be forced to put £13m on one side to pay for redundancy settlements and faced higher bills because of increased demand for services and inflation.

Controversial cost-cutting measures announced by the council in recent months include moving from a weekly to fortnightly bin collection, which will save £2.4m.

Plans have also been announced to increase charges for council services and the use of parks and sports pitches, although council leaders said some rises would be based on “ability to pay”.

Rod Padley, of public sector union Unison, which represents 8,000 workers in the city, said union officials met senior councillors and officers each week.

He added: “We believe the council has done all it can to mitigate redundancy and maximise job opportunities for those under threat. The situation has been imposed on Sheffield by the Government.

Coun Simon Clement-Jones, finance spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said Coun Dore had made “the wrong decisions” on the budget.

“We will be putting forward alternatives when it comes to setting the budget next month,” he added. “We will tackle some of Labour’s no-go areas, such as trade union costs, in an effort to protect local front line services.”

The budget will be agreed by members of Sheffield Council’s cabinet at a meeting next Wednesday and then be examined by the full council at its March meeting.