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Council jobs axe will continue until 2016

PROTEST ... Unison members campaign against the cuts outside South Shields Town Hall. Below, Merv Butler, the unions branch secretary.

PROTEST ... Unison members campaign against the cuts outside South Shields Town Hall. Below, Merv Butler, the unions branch secretary.

THE number of jobs shed at South Tyneside Council over the past three years has now gone past the 1,000 mark, it has emerged.

In the face of vastly reduced support from central government, the local authority has faced up to unprecedented financial savings of more than £55m since 2010.

That has resulted in 800 staff leaving the council through a voluntary redundancy scheme and a further 400 vacant posts have been deleted following a series of service reviews.

Those reviews are still going on and the further cuts are, say union bosses, inevitable.

A target has now been set for the axe to fall on up to a further 350 jobs over the next 22 months to September 2014.

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, described the programme of voluntary redundancies as “relentless”.

He forecast that the jobs cull was likely to continue until 2016 “at the earliest”.

Mr Butler said: “This cuts programme is relentless, it’s never-ending.

“We have received a target of £12m worth of savings next year, although that is dependent on two big caveats - the Chancellor’s autumn statement tomorrow and the council’s funding allocation to be announced by communities secretary Eric Pickles on December 17.

“This announcement is incredibly late this year.

“As the process goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to find volunteers to come forward.

“But we will do everything that we can to protect our members and ensure we avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.

“That becomes more difficult month-on-month.”

Excluding school staff, the council has 2,891 employees, a figure set to fall still further over the coming months.

South Tyneside Council has conformed that 812 staff had left the authority through the voluntary redundancy scheme since January, 2012.

The full extent of the savings needed over the next financial year will not be clear until the council received its detailed spending allocation for 2013/14.

Meanwhile, the 350 jobs earmarked to go before August 2014 was a “maximum” figure.

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