Hundreds of jobs under threat at council

THOUSANDS of council staff across Suffolk are today preparing for a worrying Christmas as they fear hundreds of their jobs could be on the line.Suffolk County Council is looking to make substantial cuts in the New Year, and union officials fear hundreds of jobs could go.

THOUSANDS of council staff across Suffolk are today preparing for a worrying Christmas as they fear hundreds of their jobs could be on the line.

Suffolk County Council is looking to make substantial cuts in the New Year, and union officials fear hundreds of jobs could go.

Departments including social services, transport and roads, libraries, trading standards, the fire service and economic development could all be hit.

The council is looking to make savings of about £17 million in its budget next year - that is about six per cent of its current spending.

Education is insulated from the threatened cuts - schools have been given money direct by the government and have received a generous settlement.

However that means the cuts will have to be absorbed by the 12,000 county council staff not employed in Suffolk's schools.

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Unions are concerned about their members' jobs and are expecting to open negotiations with council bosses early in the New Year.

County council Unison secretary Malcolm Gibbs said many of his members were very concerned: “It is very unsettling, especially at this time of the year.

“We don't have any details about the kind of numbers the council will be looking at but we fear it could be more than 100.”

Mr Gibbs said his members knew it was not councillors at Endeavour House who were primarily responsible for the threat to jobs.

He said: “This is all down to the level of grant that came to Suffolk from central government, but having said that we hope we can avoid job losses if at all possible.”

The union has sent out a letter to all its members explaining the situation and warning that if negotiations are not successful it may have to consider balloting on industrial action.

Suffolk County Council spokesman Francis Thomas said managers and councillors were aware that this was a stressful time for staff.

However he said the number of jobs to be reduced would probably be relatively small in comparison with the size of the organisation as a whole - and only a small proportion of those which naturally became vacant every year.

About 10 per cent of the council's staff leave every year, and it might be possible for people whose jobs disappear as part of the reorganisation to find an alternative job at Endeavour House.

Council facts:

Number of employees: 27,000 - of which 15,000 are employed in schools or the education department and are effectively insulated from the threat of job losses.

Budget: 2005/6: £656.6 million - including £426.3 million from the government and £230.3 million from council tax payers. About 60 pc of that is spent on schools and education, which cannot be cut.

Next year the budget formula has changed - schools finance has been taken out. The government is giving Suffolk £127.9 million.

Council tax: In April it went up 2.5pc. Next year's rise will be settled in February, but the government has said it will not allow an increase higher than 5pc.

The largest non-teaching union among county council employees is Unison, which represents public sector staff across all departments.

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