350 council jobs face the axe

HUNDREDS of council jobs will be shed over the next two years to meet a shortfall in Government funding, it has been announced.

The news that up to 350 posts could go was broken to staff in an e-mail yesterday afternoon.

The Gazette revealed in August that South Tyneside Council was looking at ways to cut costs because of a 4bn national deficit in funding for local authorities.

South Tyneside is set to miss out on an estimated 21m to 23m over the next 24 months.

Unison chiefs warned at the time that job losses were "inevitable" and the union has been meeting with town hall bosses to discuss the cash crisis.

South Tyneside branch secretary Merv Butler today said: "I was really fearful that it would end up in job losses.

"The council has now confirmed that it is going to have to shed up to 350 jobs over the next two years.

"We are in discussions with them about how we are going to deal with that.

"Obviously they do have measures available to them, such as voluntary redundancy packages and early retirement packages.

"What we have said is we would expect them to negotiate these redundancies with us and that we would oppose any use of compulsory redundancies."

He added: "Our policy is we would go to the workforce with measures if there was any proposed compulsory redundancy."

The union is also calling on the council to look at making other efficiency savings in a bid to avoid job losses, which are expected across the board.

Mr Butler added: "We still believe the council should have much greater funding, particularly because of its high costs in adults services and children's services.

"We don't feel the Government support is sufficient there and we have long campaigned for better funding."

A council spokeswoman said it would be looking at a range of options and keeping employees fully informed.

She added: "As already announced in the Gazette earlier this year, South Tyneside Council needs to save around 21m from the budget over the next couple of years due to restrictions in Government funding.

"We are currently discussing how we will achieve this with the trades unions and will keep employees informed.

"There are significant financial pressures on all organisations including the public sector, at this time and we will be looking at a range of options to make savings, including voluntary redundancy and flexible retirement.

"This is similar to the position faced by neighbouring authorities and councils throughout the country."