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More jobs to go at town hall

Blackpool Town Hall

Blackpool Town Hall

UP to 300 town hall jobs look set to be axed at Blackpool Council which today revealed another £13.6m in spending cuts.

The latest brutal cull will bring the total number of posts lost to almost 1,100 in just three years

Among the services set to be worst hit is the youth service which will be abolished creating savings of £600,000.

There is one shred of good news for residents with council tax set to be frozen for the third consecutive year.

But council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “Year-on-year we lose hard working committed staff and it won’t be any different this year.

“I pledge that staff who find themselves in this terrible position will be offered all the support we can give them and hopefully in some way make the process easier for them.”

“For the staff who remain, the task is even harder than before but I’ve no doubt they share my vision and the vision of this council to improve the lives of Blackpool residents.”

The 300 proposed job losses include 200 redundancies and 100 contracts which are due to come to an end.

‘At risk’ notices will be sent out to staff this week but it is hoped to keep the number of compulsory redundancies to a minimum.

The council will find out exactly how much money it will receive from the Government for the next financial year just before Christmas – and if it gets more money than expected it may be able to protect some jobs.

The latest job losses follow on from 750 roles which were axed in the 2011/12 financial year when the council has to slash £27m from its budget.

That total included 350 compulsory redundancies.

Last year, savings of £10m had to be made – with 30 compulsory redundancies.

Redundancies will save £4m of the £13.6m savings which need to be made in the next financial year.

Other cuts include £2m in direct government funding for children’s centres and £600,000 from axing the youth service, which currently arranges events for young people.

Under-used council-run youth clubs could be culled in favour of more popular services run by volunteers where some funding could be funnelled.

All council staff will also be asked to take four days unpaid leave once more – saving £1.4m.

Other savings will come from reducing back office costs, including a reduction in the Customer First Centre, and from efficiency savings which will include a review of office space.

Areas which will be protected from the worst of the cuts include the Illuminations, libraries, street cleaning, and frontline social workers.

Coun Blackburn said specialist youth services for vulnerable young people would be protected, but it was proposed to create a £200,000 pot of cash to enable youngsters to commission their own services from the voluntary sector.

He said: “If you give these groups a small amount of money, they can provide a huge amount of help.

“We are focusing our attention on what people tell us they want – cleaner and safer streets, improved public transport, a 24/7 anti-social and noise service, more help for local businesses, supporting libraries, and building on our pride in Blackpool through supporting our heritage and culture.

“We’ve invested in the infrastructure of Blackpool and will continue to do so with new housing developments, improved and new schools, a programme to resurface the town’s roads via Project 30 and new street and traffic lights.”

But Coun Blackburn said some cuts were inevitable.

He added: “In prioritising the services there are obviously going to be cuts that will be hard to take and I don’t want to try and hide that from the people of Blackpool.

“We’ve looked closely at back office and management costs to protect frontline services but some will be affected.”

Last week Coun Blackburn announced a pilot scheme which will see all Blackpool primary school children provided with a free breakfast for three months starting in January.

The £700,000 will come from partnership funding including with the NHS, and from contingencies – which is council cash saved from other services. It is also hoped to find sponsorship.

The council has set a three year budget for the first time, and is predicting further cuts of £12.9m in 2014/15 and £7m in 2015/16.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition on Blackpool Council, called on the council to consider job share schemes in a bid to save jobs.

He said: “With any savings, the main concern is always job losses.

“Although the council offers a very high level of support and training for those leaving the service, it doesn’t do enough in considering job share schemes of three or four day weeks.

“This could help support employees at risk and offer some financial assurance until they find alternative employment.”

He also called for more to be done to attract new businesses to the town to create new employment.

Coun Williams added: “During our term of office we managed to attract and support over 140 new businesses each year, with a total of almost 600 new businesses and associated jobs.

“However the biggest cost to the council is in children’s and adult services. I have already highlighted the out of control costs for children in care. Unless these costs are managed and controlled without a loss of quality, they will be crippling to future budgets.”

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