550 council jobs to be axed

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A TOTAL of 550 council workers are set to lose their jobs over the next year as Sheffield implements £55 million of cuts.

The figure is 140 fewer job losses than originally predicted - but numerous posts are to go in services helping vulnerable people. Community transport will be cut and respite care beds axed.

Parking permit charges are to be doubled for thousands of households and businesses, a £90,000 small grants fund for community groups is being cancelled, there will be £78,000 less in the budget for city centre events and £21,000 less funding for the annual Sheffield Fayre in Norfolk Park.

Reducing refuse collections from weekly to fortnightly to save £2.44m a year could cost as much as £1 million - in ‘changeover costs’ charged by Veolia.

And £400,000 is to be spent on ‘appropriate communication to ensure customers understand the changes’.

Sheffield Council bosses insist everything is being done to protect frontline services, with the axe falling on ‘back room staff’ in IT, legal, finance and human resources departments.

Eight per cent of the council workforce will be axed in total, with spending reductions coming on top of £84m of cuts made during the current financial year.

The council’s redundancy bill for the coming year will be £13m, with this figure factored into spending plans.

And money must be set aside to continue to reduce the World Student Games debt, which will still stand at £243m in March.

Council leader Julie Dore said services people relied upon and enjoyed by thousands were being maintained, and there would be no closures of parks, libraries or museums.

The privately-financed flagship programme to repair the city’s roads also goes ahead as planned, with work due to begin later this year.

“We have been dealt an unfair hand by the Government and we have been forced to take some extremely difficult decisions,” Coun Dore said.

“We have tried to ensure a fair deal for the people of Sheffield, protecting the most vulnerable. But there have been difficult choices to make with regard to charges and waste management.”

City chief executive John Mothersole said while this was the second of a three-year programme of spending reductions - another £30m is planned for next year - the longer term position remained unknown.

“While we have possibly now had the worst of the squeeze, we are not out of the woods yet. But we have taken a clear decision not to slash and burn our vital services - we know that, once you have closed down services, it is very hard to reopen them again,” he said.

Sheffield had also decided against introducing pay cuts for staff, as had been seen in Doncaster. Instead, pay remains frozen.

Council tax will be frozen for another year, with support from a £4.9m Government grant for the purpose.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors said that while Labour clearly had to save money, the wrong choices were being made.

“While in power they have agreed to spend an extra £2.5m on the Park Hill project and have appointed eight council officers who are on more than £50,000 a year salaries,” said finance spokesman Coun Simon Clement-Jones.

“And by insisting council officers reduce wasteful spending on things like senior management costs and consultants, some of the reductions to frontline services could be avoided.”

The council budget will be discussed by the Cabinet next week, before going before a full council meeting in March.

Budget in numbers

11 - percentage reduction in council budget next year

5 - percentage cuts to adult social care

26 - percentage cuts to council IT department

690 - original number of estimated job losses

550 - revised number of job losses

8 - percentage cut to workforce