Town Hall job cuts ‘terrible news’ – South Tyneside union leader

UNISON BOSS ... Merv Butler.
UNISON BOSS ... Merv Butler.

UP to 350 jobs at South Tyneside Council could be axed.

The news of potential job losses was broken to union officials and workers yesterday morning by Town Hall chiefs, who need to make £22m in budget cuts for the 2015/16 financial year.

Formal discussions with trade unions, including Unison, GMB, Unite and UCATT, are now set to get under way.

But one union chief described the announcement as “terrible news” and feared it will be difficult to avoid compulsory redundancies.

The £22m budget cuts come on top of the local authority having to make savings of more than £100m over the past four years – which has seen the loss of about 1,200 jobs since 2010.

The council has a workforce of 2,888, excluding school staff.

A senior councillor today stressed that the final figure on the actual number of jobs that could be affected in this latest wave of cuts will not be known until later in the budgeting process.

Previous job losses have been absorbed through voluntary redundancies, early retirements and the deletion of vacant posts.

However, Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, thinks it will be difficult to avoid compulsory redundancies this time.

He said: “These job losses will be over and above the job losses that we have seen to date.

“So far, we have been able to avoid compulsory redundancies and we will look at doing so again. However, this time it could prove more difficult.

“We managed it the last time through service reviews and voluntary redundancies. But can the council continue to lose posts and still maintain anywhere near its current level of service?

“Since late 2009 early 2010 there number of jobs lost is 800 plus, and then you have the number of vacancies that have been deleted. That is about 400.

“My guess is that on this occasion all types of council jobs will be under threat, so it is yet more terrible news for the council workforce.

“The number of job losses over the next 12-months is very high and how we are going to achieve that without compulsory redundancies is not clear.”

Council bosses must inform the Government of the number of jobs that might be affected. It has to submit a HR1 form to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills now to enable any consultations to take place with staff and trade unions over any potential redundancies.

Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, said: “Let me start off by emphasising that we will do everything we can do to reduce the 350 figure and, wherever possible, avoid compulsory redundancies.

“We appreciate this is a tough time for our staff and we will work with them and the trade unions to lessen the impact wherever we can.

“The HR1 form is a legal requirement and a formal process we must undertake.

“Our estimate is that up to 350 council jobs could be affected in the budget-setting process and we have now informed the Government of that figure.

“We are still working on our budget for next year and we do not relish having to put a figure on the potential number of jobs that might be affected relatively early in our budget planning process.

“As everyone knows, we continue to be subjected to unprecedented Government cuts and are doing all we can to minimise the impact on frontline services.

“We are not yet in a position to confirm a definite number, as this is obviously dependent on the decisions made by councillors around the budget.”

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