THE leader of South Tyneside Council has praised staff who ‘paid the price’ of losing their jobs with the authority over recent years.
The tribute came as senior councillors rubber-stamped a new £20m budget savings package yesterday.
It follows cutbacks amounting to £35m over the last 12 months, which saw hundreds of posts shed through voluntary redundancies and early retirement.
At a meeting of the council’s decision-making cabinet, a further package of measures were endorsed, which will inevitably lead to more staff leaving.
Members also agreed a freeze on Council Tax levels, and an average £5.50 a week rise in council house rents.
Labour council leader Coun Iain Malcolm said every effort has been made to make savings without hitting frontline services.
He said potential efficiencies have been examined “line by line”, with no department exempt from scrutiny,
Coun Malcolm added: “We shouldn’t forget the staff we have already had to let go, not just at senior level but across the whole authority.
“We need to place on record our thanks for their service to the council and the public of South Tyneside.”
Meanwhile, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, laid the blame for the council’s plight firmly with the coalition government.
South Tyneside is facing a reduction of up to 11 per cent in core government funding over the next year.
Mr Butler said: “Unison condemns the coalition government’s failure to adequately support the council’s funding needs for next year.
“This settlement is the second worst in the region, and comes at a time when demand for council services is rising, especially in adult social care and looked-after children.
“Unison is joining the South Tyneside Public Services Alliance in holding a rally to highlight these concerns on March 1, when the council agrees its budget.”
Unison is already in consultation over a series of job cuts.
Mr Butler added: “We are supporting our members, and hope that voluntary redundancy can provide a solution.
“We remain opposed to any compulsory redundancies.”