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Wirral Council drops budget bombshell warning 500 jobs could be axed
A FURTHER 500 jobs are at risk at Wirral Council as part of plans to save £57m.
An email seen by the Globe has been sent to all staff by chief executive Graham Burgess, warning they may face compulsory redundancy.
Mr Burgess says the council has made “significant progress” by meeting budget cuts in previous years, but still faces “substantial challenges”.
The announcement will be a body blow to the workforce, which saw its numbers fall by more than 1,100 through voluntary severance in 2011.
And last year there were union protests outside Wallasey Town Hall over plans to cut up to 700 jobs under reduced redundancy terms.
The email says: “Based on budget decisions which have already been taken, our workforce will have to further reduce by around 500 over the coming months.
“Given the tough budget choices the council still needs to take, it is inevitable that additional reductions will need to be made over the next two years.
“Therefore, we have today issued a HR1 Notification. This notification is a legal step we are required to take to formally notify Trade Unions and the Government that we will potentially need to make compulsory redundancies.
“To enable the council to plan its restructures, and to provide a small reduction in the number of compulsory redundancies that will be needed, we would like to invite applications for voluntary severance by June 30, 2014.”
Mr Burgess told the Globe: "Given the swingeing reductions in our grant funding that we, in line with other deprived northern authorities, are facing over the next couple of years, even more staff reductions seem inevitable."
As well as delivering savings of £57m between 2014 and 2016 - £9.4m of which will be found by redesigning the council and its staffing structure – the authority must also reduce spending by 20% - something Mr Burgess says “is everybody’s problem”.
The email states that decisions will be based on whether a post can be deleted or whether savings from the post can be realigned through planned restructures.
It concludes: “Clearly our priority is to continue to deliver services, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. For that reason, there are some roles, and some skill areas, where staff can’t be released.
“Decisions will be made and shared with employees between July and September. Requests which can be approved immediately may see some staff released from employment earlier.
“Staff may be released later if there is a decision to stop or change the service delivery.”
The jobs bombshell coincided with the disclosure this week that the authority has recently spent £17,000 redecorating toilets in the town hall.
Deputy Conservative group leader Lesley Rennie said the council should stop spending money on refurbishments before it thinks about axing staff.
She said: “I hope they can look at areas other than making people compulsory redundant because that’s something all political parties on the council have tried to shy away from.
“Our group are certainly not convinced that they have made all possible savings in every other field.
“They can find nearly £1m to employ consultants and redecorate and refurbish the town hall. They wrap it up as if it’s all being done for health and safety reasons, but these items are not essential spending, especially with the financial constraints we are working under.
“Until they have examined all those decisions, we as a group will certainly voice our opposition to compulsory redundancies."
Wallasey Consevative councillor Leah Fraser added: "On a day when they're defending spending £17,000 on refurbishing toilets at the town hall, the chief executive sends an email to all staff saying that the mess we are in is 'everyone's problem' - I don't think so.
"The only people responsible are this Labour-run council and senior officers - what he really means is that everyone else will have to pay the price.
"How distressing for staff whose lives will now be put on hold with the threat of redundancy hanging over them, again, not knowing whether they will have a job or not this time next year."
Tony Caffery, regional organiser for Unison, which represents more than 2,500 council workers, told the Globe the union will work with the council to minimise the negative impact of the cuts on service users.
He said: "This is a bitter blow for council staff and for the public on the Wirral. Central Government funding cuts are having a devastating impact on jobs and services.
"We are seeing a sustained attack by the current Government on local councils that jeopardises the cohesion of our communities. Cuts of this scale will inevitably impact on front-line services.
“Unison will work to support our members through this difficult time. We will be pressing the council to consider all available options in order to avoid compulsory redundancies, for example, through reducing spending on consultancy fees."
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