DCSIMG

60 council jobs to be axed in Hartlepool to save £4m

Christopher Akers-Belcher

Christopher Akers-Belcher

DOZENS of people are set to lose their jobs as councillors prepare to rubber-stamp savage budget cuts of more than £4m.

Officials at Hartlepool Borough Council have confirmed budget proposals for 2014-15 will see 27 compulsory redundancies and 33 voluntary redundancies.

Finance chiefs say they have done their “very best” to minimise the impact on front-line services but admit the situation in future years is “unprecedented” with the council facing a £21m black hole between now and 2016-17.

Services set to be affected next year include lunchtime school crossing patrols being axed to save £25,000, reducing the

funds available to community groups by £220,000 and huge savings in adult social care worth £1.325m.

Despite the huge budget cuts though, the proposal is to freeze council tax for the fourth consecutive year.

The council’s finance and policy committee met recently to discuss the latest situation facing the authority.

From 2014-15 to 2016-17, it is estimated the authority will have to find savings of between £17.1m and £21.6m, which is on top of the £19.5m already saved over the last three years.

The departmental budget cuts for next year total £4.376m and councillors will meet later this month to confirm the budget proposals.

Chris Little, the chief finance officer, outlined the proposals and said the recent two-year settlement showed a cut of £5.918m from the council’s core budget in 2014-15 or 9.6 per cent, £8,000 less than first thought.

Meanwhile, the 2015-16 figure is even higher, a cut in funding of £8.2m - or 14.6 per cent - which is around £86,000 more than first feared.

Mr Little said: “Between 2016-17 the minimum gap is £17m, but it could be as high as £21m.”

The core revenue grant has been cut from £78.6m in 2010-11 to £48.1 by 2015-16 - a staggering cut of £30.5m or 39 per cent.

That, Mr Little said, was “unprecedented”.

He told committee members: “There is a perception that local authorities can keep coping but it will be very difficult to manage the budgets in future because we still have to solve a budget gap of around £21m and we still have to find around three quarters of that.

“There is going to be some really difficult decisions for members to make.”

Mr Little added: “Increasingly, these decisions will involve prioritising services and completely stopping other services.

“This is anticipated to require increasing numbers of compulsory redundancies as the measures implemented in previous years to delete vacant posts and restructure management roles cannot be repeated.

“From 2015-16 budget decisions required to address grant cuts will be increasingly more difficult to explain to the public.

“This will be particularly the case in the context of how council tax is spent, as the services which will need to be prioritised are not universally used by all residents and cover the social care services that many people do not realise the council provides.”

Speaking at a recent neighbourhood forum meeting, leader of the council, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “We are doing our best and trying to keep the impact on services to the bare minimum.

“It maybe that we don’t cut the grass as much as we did before, for example.

“It is about thinking a bit smarter about the money that we have left.”

A proposal to earmark the temporary employers’ pension contribution saving in 2014-15 in relation to the chief executive’s post of £30,000 was approved, to create two further apprenticeships specifically for young people in the care system.

Final decisions will be taken in January before the proposals go before full council for final approval.

Where the axe will fall

Chief executive’s department. Total savings worth £457,000:

• Overtime and other staffing budgets - £30,000;

• Deletion of vacant posts and changes in management arrangements - £116,000;

• Removal of vacant posts and rostering arrangements - £44,000;

There have also been vacant posts removed within the chief solicitor’s department of £75,000.

Child and adult services department. Total savings £1,954,000:

Education

• Services to 11- 19 cohort - £122,000;

• Educational psychology - reduction in local authority contribution of £50,000.

Adults Social Care

• Carers Service - £200,000 has been secured from NHS to support services for carers which means a saving can be achieved but without an impact on the service for three years;

• Low level services - stop commissioning of low level services when the current contract ends in March, 2014. Saving of £150,000;

• Mental health day services - cease commissioning of day opportunity support for people with mental health needs when current contract ends in September 2014.

Children’s services

• Review of management structure - £117,000 saving.

Regeneration and neighbourhoods. Total savings worth £1,862,000:

• School crossing patrol services - removal of staff from controlled crossing points at lunchtimes saving £25,000;

If schools want to continue school crossing patrols outside their gates at lunch time, there is the option to either “buy back” the council’s services or provide their own warden;

• Waste management reconfiguration through recycling changes and reduced waste disposal cost - saving £220,000;

• Community Pool review - saving of £220,000;

• Potential lease of Bryan Hanson House - £125,000 saving;

• Library service review - saving of £68,000 which could include changes to the community outreach service currently delivered by the mobile library but plans are still to be finalised;

• Review of denominational transport for schools - saving of £125,000 earmarked but a decision is yet to be made.

Public health. Total savings worth £103,000:

• Increased income in sport and recreation - £72,000 due to more usage, developing the Brierton site and investment in Mill House swimming pool;

• Removal of remaining subsidy to Carlton Outdoor Education Centre - saving £31,000.

 

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