Hartlepool council leaders unsure about scale of job losses as a result of £4m cuts

Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

THE leader of Hartlepool Borough Council says it is too early to say how many workers will lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts worth more than £4m.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher presented the latest budget proposals for 2014-15 to residents at a neighbourhood forum meeting inside the Civic Centre.

Officers say the local authority continues to face “unprecedented cuts” in Government funding and over the next three financial years, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, it is estimated that Hartlepool Council will have to find savings of between £17.1m and £21.6m.

That is on top of the £19.5m which has already been saved over the last three years.

The departmental budget cuts for next year total £4.376m but Coun Akers-Belcher said it is too early to say for definite how many people would lose their jobs because the final grant settlement from central Government won’t be confirmed until next week.

Also, the council leader said the council has been deleting vacant posts over the past year in a bid to minimise job losses so the figure is likely to be dozens, rather than hundreds of employees losing their job.

Despite savings of more than £4m next year the proposal is still to freeze council tax, for the fourth successive year.

The chief executive’s department is looking to save £458,000, the resources department of regeneration and neighbourhoods savings of £768,000, £200,000 from neighbourhood management, £475,000 from neighbourhoods and £110,000 from regeneration services.

The council is also looking to cut £305,000 from the community services budget, £1.325m from adult social care, £228,000 from children’s services and £487,000 from the education department.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “All the service managers have tried to make the impact on the community as low as possible.

“In child and adult services for example the impact is disproportionate to the amount of money we are taking out of the budget and it may mean that people get the service but in a different way. It is about making best use of the amount of money that we have.

“The officers have done really well in that sense.”

The council leader added that the cuts will mean more pressure on the existing council workforce because people “are having to do more” for the same money.

He added: “We are not filling posts unless we have to.”

Coun Akers-Belcher was speaking at the meetings of the North and Coastal Neighbourhood Forum and the South and Central Neighbourhood Forum.

Residents had been encouraged to attend meetings of the council’s five main policy committees; finance and policy, regeneration services, neighbourhood services, adults services and children’s services) where spending plans for the next year were discussed.

The final proposals will go before the Full Council early in the New Year.