690 jobs at risk as council cuts deeper

cutsram'Bryan Lodge
cutsram'Bryan Lodge

SHEFFIELD is paving the way for deeper cuts in council spending with a strategy to shed up to 690 jobs over the next financial years.

Faced with having to make £57m of savings, ruling Labour councillors said any easy options had gone, and posts would be lost across manual, clerical, management and professional, and technical workers.

After 800 redundancies as part of the current budget, deputy leader Coun Bryan Lodge said: “We are trying our best to minimise the impact on council services and the most vulnerable.”

But he added: “We are cutting deeper and further.”

The authority is indicating the scale of the potential jobs losses to the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and trade unions, who blame the Coalition Government for the severity of the situation.

The breakdown includes 74 professional and managerial staff after a previous focus on trying to reduce numbers of white collar workers without hitting frontline services. The biggest group at risk is technical staff (289) along with clerical (50), manual (33) and others, estimated at 244.

The workforce numbers 7,160 at the moment in terms of full-time equivalents – the total is much higher when part-time staff are taken into account.

It is hoped that many more jobs can be lost through voluntary redundancy, early retirement and the non-filling of vacancies – there were 17 compulsory redundancies last year.

Coun Lodge said: “I would like to stress that this is an estimated figure and towards the upper end of our estimation.

“We are not yet in a position to confirm a definite number, as this is obviously dependent on the decisions made by councillors around the budget options.

“However this is likely to represent the worst-case scenario and we will of course do whatever we can to reduce that number. The council wants to hold constructive talks with the trade unions going forward.”

At the same time, he acknowledged: “It’s a difficult time for the council workforce, faced with the uncertainty.”

Coun Lodge added: “We didn’t join the Labour Party and the council to make redundancies but we recognise the position of financial constraint that we are in.”

More cuts are due to be made the following year and the council is starting to examine options such as sharing services with other authorities and working more with the third sector, including charities, to meet ever-tightening budget targets. The council will set its next budget in March.

Unite union regional officer Doug Patterson said: “These job losses could be avoided if the Government reversed its continuing and failing polices on public expenditure – and adopted a u-turn in its current harsh policies to local government.

“At present, we don’t know what the impact on services will be, or how many job vacancies the council presently has. Unite would urge councillors to leave no stone unturned in avoiding job losses and cuts to much-needed local services.”

Mr Patterson added: ‘Unfortunately, Sheffield won’t be the only council in Yorkshire and England to face these very difficult financial decisions because of the coalition’s ideological dislike of local government.”