250 jobs to go as £16m council cuts hit hard

Blackpool Council is having to make �35m of savings over the next few years.
Blackpool Council is having to make �35m of savings over the next few years.
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Town hall chiefs today warned another 250 jobs are set to be axed as Blackpool Council is forced to make savings of £16m.

Union bosses say they fear they will not be able to protect “even frontline staff” and described the situation as “bleak” as council leader Simon Blackburn suggested compulsory redundancies may be inevitable.

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn

Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburn

Since 2010, when government cuts to local authority spending were first imposed, around 650 town hall jobs have been lost in Blackpool.

Now the council is offering enhanced terms – a £5,000 payment in addition to staff’s normal entitlement – in a bid to encourage more employees to volunteer to leave.

Coun Blackburn said: “Over the last three years more than 600 staff have been made redundant from the council and unfortunately this figure is likely to rise by 250 more this year.

“We have managed to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies but as the years go on there are fewer and fewer staff looking to take voluntary redundancy.

“We need to save £16m this year and that can’t happen without losing more staff. It is not an easy position to be in for anyone, the threat of redundancy is always there and no-one has job security.”

Staff have until December 13 to take up the offer.

The council is also hoping to introduce a pay freeze on increments for two years and is asking staff to take five days unpaid leave, up from four days this year, in a bid to help ease the cash crisis.

Julia Orry, branch secretary for Unison at Blackpool Town Hall, said: “It is an awful time and people are worried.

“A lot of people will know before Christmas which departments jobs will be lost in.

“We won’t be able to protect even frontline staff this time, because we are already thin on the ground in some areas, so it will affect services.

“We will be negotiating with managers to see where we can save some jobs.”

It is not yet known which frontline services may be hit.

Coun Blackburn added: “In an effort to encourage more people to come forward we are offering an incentive of £5,000 in addition to the standard redundancy payment.

“We are also consulting on changes to the terms and conditions currently in place.

“We are hoping staff will continue to agree to more unpaid leave and an increment freeze for two years.

“Since the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010 staff have continually agreed to a range of measures that have helped to save money.

“Life is tough at the moment in the private and public sector. I hope this incentive encourages people to come forward voluntarily so we don’t have to force as many compulsory redundancies.”

Since 2010,the council has been forced to reduce its annual budget by £52m.

It has seen 656 people made redundant, of which 427 have been volunteers.

Staffing levels have fallen in that time from 3,411 full-time equivalent posts, to 2,591.

A report to councillors says: “It is getting increasingly difficult to encourage voluntary redundancy given the difficulty in obtaining alternative employment in Blackpool.”

Ken Cridland, chairman of Blackpool Against The Cuts, said: “It’s a bleak situation.

“We’re still suffering in Blackpool and things are getting worse, not better.

“Clearly the council is in a difficult position because they’re having to impose cuts from a national position.

“The £5,000 is an amount to get people to go with the threat there’ll have to be compulsory redundancies if not.

“We are hoping to meet the council leader to discuss if there’s a way round this.”

The council will find out exactly how much money it will receive from Government just before Christmas.

This year’s budget for 2013/14 saw a cut of £13.6m, with youth and CCTV services most affected. There were 50 compulsory redundancies, 60 voluntary redundancies and 190 jobs lost through contracts ending, abolition of vacant roles and natural wastage bringing the total to 300.

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