400 jobs face axe in Cheshire West and Chester Council cuts plan


David Powell

COUNCIL workers are facing a hammer blow as local authority chiefs have announced more than 400 jobs could go.

Cheshire West and Chester Council says job losses are “unavoidable” as it aims to make savings in the face of government cuts to its funding.

The job cuts, which the council claim would save £14.7 million, are among the budget options that are currently out for public consultation as the council seeks to bridge a £49m financial gap over the next three years.

Council leader Cllr Mike Jones, who announced the news on Friday, said: “In an ideal world we would not be considering further job losses and we will do everything we can to manage this situation with empathy and understanding.

“However, the stark reality of this situation is that you cannot save this amount of money – and protect services – without being forced into making some extremely difficult decisions.”

If agreed, the council claim that the job cuts over the next three years will focus mainly on senior and middle management posts but also affect staff across the board in six council services.

The council says that, due to an annual turnover of staff of about 350, it will be able to manage the staff reductions through retirement, career change and voluntary redundancy, and expects there to be few or no compulsory redudancies.

The announcement of the potential job cuts has been slammed by Cllr Justin Madders, leader of the CWaC Labour opposition, who claimed it was “inevitable” that the proposed cuts would affect front-line services.

“The consultation process into the budget cuts has been lacking in any detail,” said Cllr Madders.

“There are potential plans to close libraries and children’s centres and now we have the news that job losses are also being considered.

“We don’t know where these job cuts are going to come from. If the council is confident it can meet these cuts through ‘natural causes’ as they put it, then they must know exactly where the axe is going to fall.

“Are we going to lose street cleaners or library workers?

“These cuts will undoubtedly affect our front line services and we think there are other ways that savings can be achieved without the need for these job cuts.

“When is the council and Mike Jones going to stand up to the Government and say ‘enough is enough’ and that the level of burden being placed upon local government is disproportionate.”

If the plans to cut the jobs are agreed, the council has said a full consultation with members of staff and union representatives at director and departmental level will follow and that all proposals will be considered by scrutiny committees covering the relevant services.

Since its inception in 2009, CWaC has shed about 1,200 jobs but has stated that only a “handful” of these have been through compulsory losses.

Concern has also been raised by union chiefs over the proposals, with Teresa Connally, Unison branch secretary, telling the Leader: “This announcement of 400 job losses will cause great concern to staff and service users.

“Unison will be supporting our members through this difficult time and working with the council to avoid compulsory redundancies and to minimise the negative impact on services.”

During the past four years, CWaC has absorbed more than £40m of reductions in central grant while saving £113m through what it describes as ‘prudent award-winning financial management and innovative re-organisation’.

Despite the impending job cuts facing council employees, Cllr Jones has claimed the council would do “everything to protect frontline services”.

“We will continue to restructure, innovate, increase efficiency and eliminate waste and duplication by sharing services with other authorities, while doing everything to protect frontline services, especially for vulnerable children and elderly residents,” said Cllr Jones.

“If it were not for similar actions taken since 2009, we would certainly have been facing the nightmare situation predicted by many of our hard-hit fellow local authorities across the country.”

The budget consultation closes on February 9 and, 10 days later, members of the CWaC executive will consider its proposals after examining the feedback from the public and stakeholders before the final decisions will be made at full council on March 3.

Anyone wishing to consider the proposals and comment can do so by visiting www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/budgetconsultation

See full story in the Chester Leader

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