TOWN hall bosses are warning that 239 jobs could go as they make £12.5 million in cuts over the next two years.

Bolton Council is beginning to set its budgets for the financial years 2017 to 2019 and says that, for the first time it has had to dig into revenue reserves, using £30 million in order to prevent more severe cuts having to be made.

The proposed budget cuts come in addition to a potential increase of 3.99 per cent in council tax.

Council directors are identifying areas within their departments where the axe will fall. The Department of People, which is responsible for children and adult services, will bear the brunt of the cuts. The department has been told it will have to make cuts of £4.5 million.

The Department of Place, which oversees environmental services and development and regeneration, has been told it must find savings of £3 million while a further £3 million will go from the Chief Executive’s and Corporate Departments and £2 million will be slashed from the Public Health Department budgets.

Council leader Cliff Morris said he is hopeful that the jobs which will go can be achieved without making compulsory redundancies.

In previous years the council has shied away from dipping into its reserves in order to soften budget cuts, but says that this time it has no alternative.

“The cuts would have been so draconian that we have no choice,” said Cllr Morris.

Bolton Council currently has £73 million in revenue reserves. That money is generally set aside to deal with unforeseen events, such as the £2 million spent last winter on the aftermath of the flooding and the nearly £3 million spent this year on clearing the waste left at the former Chadwick's recycling plant in Breightmet.

But council bosses said they are confident that, despite spending £30 million of the reserves, the cash will be replaced as increasing income is generated from developments such as the massive Logistics North complex.

The Bolton News recently announced that another global firm is set to move to the former Cutacre site and developments like this will be crucial in boosting the council's coffers after the Government's announcement last year that local authorities will be able to retain 100 per cent of the business rates generated, rather than the 50 per cent currently collected.

While this only starts nationally from 2019/20, from 2017/18 it is thought that Bolton will be part of the Greater Manchester pilot for the new plan.

Councils also now have the option of raising council tax by up to 3.99 per cent each year, where previously any rise of more than two per cent could have required a referendum.

This is because an optional two per cent rise has been offered to authorities to specifically pay for adult social care —alongside the usual allowed rise of up to 1.99 per cent.

Last year the council brought in a rise of 3.5 per cent and so far chiefs have remained tight lipped on how close they will go to the maximum figure of 3.99 per cent.

Looking to the future, Cllr Morris said: “It might take us two, three or four years to get back to where we were though."

He stressed that over the last five years the council has had to make £140 million in savings and there is very little more that can be saved without affecting the authority’s pledge to protect those in the borough who are most vulnerable and cutting back on efforts to regenerate the economy.

And the council leader added that opting to make £12.5 million budget cuts, lose 239 jobs and dip so deeply into reserves were difficult decisions.

“It has not been easy. It is not what we hoped to do but we have to make the decisions,” he said.

“We are already down to the basics. There is only so much you can cut.”

The council will now consult the public, staff and unions about the proposals with a final decision about the budget and level of council tax increase being made by councillors on February 22.