£9m more cuts at town hall
9:07am Friday 11th January 2013 in News
Local authority leaders have also warned there could be a rise in council tax bills as they try to save £43 million.
Bolton’s ruling cabinet is due to approve a £34.6 million cuts programme — including the loss of 486 posts and service cuts — when it meets on Monday.
But following further reductions in government grants, the cabinet will also be asked to approve a further £9 million in cuts when it meets on February 11.
A report to Town Hall bosses warns finding the additional £9 million will be “very difficult” with council tax rises and the loss of up to 220 more posts among the options.
Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris said: “We’re cutting to the bone now and people are going to feel the impact.
“It will be very challenging, there are no two ways about it.
“People will see services disappear. Once we’re down to this we can’t say we can keep giving this level of service.
“The government are acting like we don’t exist.”
If the job losses cannot be avoided it means the council will shed 712 posts between 2013 and 2015 in addition to the 833 axed over the past two years.
This means the local authority — Bolton’s biggest employer — will have lost 1,539 jobs, more than a quarter of its entire workforce, since cuts began in 2010.
Prime Minister David Cameron had called for national freeze in council tax bills and the government has offered Bolton Council a £1 million grant if it agrees not to increase tax this year.
But this offer could be rejected and an increase brought in — a rise which the borough’s Conservative group has vowed to oppose.
Cllr David Greenhalgh, Leader of the Conservative Group, said: ” Any reduction in posts is regrettable but there are other alternatives to job losses, which we, the Conservatives, would look at, such as a one-off use of some of the council’s reserves, more joint working with neighbouring authorities and a reduction in the amount of agency staff the council uses.”
Roger Hayes, Bolton Liberal Democrat leader, added: “I am extremely disappointed that local government, including Bolton, is taking yet another hit.
“There is no doubt these cuts will affect services and threaten jobs, but we must remember that nationally Labour aren’t offering any alternative to them.
“There may well be a case for an increase in council tax to mitigate the problems, but that is a decision that can only be taken nearer the date of setting the council’s budget.”
Of the 486 posts which could be axed following Monday’s meeting, up to 240 are already classed as “vacant”, but some are currently filled by agency staff.
The other 246 are filled by council employees but since consultation began in early September, only 150 have offered to accept voluntary redundancy, meaning the council could be forced to implement compulsory job losses for the first time — a move unions have pledged to oppose in the past.
Bernadette Gallagher, Bolton Unison Branch Secretary, said: “We are really concerned about any further job losses and the potential impact on the services that the people of Bolton rely on and also on the morale of the remaining staff.
“We are told that the town centre will receive an economic boost through centralisation of services and the closure of various satellite offices. In reality, fewer people working for the council means less money spent in the local economy.”
Sean Warren, GMB Convenor for Bolton, added: “Any further job losses will be a terrible blow to our town.
“The politicians in Westminster who make decisions about the millions that Bolton Council is expected to save won’t see the consequences.
“The reality is that major job cuts mean services will get worse and the local economy will suffer with even more boarded up shops.”
If both sets of cuts are approved by cabinet the council’s budget and council tax will need to be approved by full council on February 20.
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