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Wirral council staff storm the town hall in protest at 'unavoidable' cuts
HUNDREDS of angry council workers descended on Wallasey Town Hall last night as Wirral’s ruling cabinet met to allow consultation to begin on a major package of cuts.
The ruling cabinet was asked to approve measures designed to save around £40m over the next year.
They also allowed the authority’s chief executive Graham Burgess to enter negotiations with Trade Unions over changes to staff terms and conditions.
Redundancies are now unavoidable and the current enhanced payment for departing staff is to be scrapped.
Thousands of council staff are being briefed on the proposed cuts today.
Councillors were also be asked to give the go-ahead to radical changes in workers' employment contracts, including redundancy payment policy.
Chief officers have already been sent letters saying their jobs are at risk and that the authority is seeking to reduce its manangement tier by a third.
'At risk' letters will be sent to thousands of staff next week.
Cabinet members were jeered by around 400 staff ahead of the night’s meeting.
Because of the number of protestors, the meeting was moved from the cabinet’s usual committee room to the main civic hall.
Mr Burgess said cuts were unavoidable. He told the meeting that he would be announcing a £49m package of cuts options for members of the public, staff and councillors to choose from.
He said: "This arises because the council is facing a significant financial challenge, because of reductions in government grant.
"I will be setting forward a series of options, not decisions, which will now be consulted upon.
"The council has a legal obligation to consult workforce on changes which will affect them."
Addressing cabinet, Joe Taylor, branch secretary of workers union Unison expressed concerns that some of the council’s lowest paid workers faced losing thousands of pounds in pay or redundancy packages.
He said: "We understand that savings will be made. There will be job losses, we have been told that, and there will be compulsory redundancies.
"If consultation is going to be meaningful and sensible, 28 days is not long enough."
Council leader Phil Davies said: “We are facing this situation because the coalition government is making cuts to local government funding.
"I totally disagree with the austerity measures, because they are targetting vulnerable areas. The responsibility lies with this government nationally.
"Legally, we have to make changes to this budget and have to make as good a job as possible.
"I don’t want to make these savings, but we have to make them in order to make the books balance.
"We have to balance the budget, because if we don’t, the Government will send in commissioners to do it for us.
"We will protect, as far as we can, frontline services. What we can’t do is do nothing, so we’ve got to make alternative decisions."