Cost cutting continues in county budget

By Dan Santy 08/02 Updated: 09/02 09:37

THE COST cutting continues after Warwickshire County Council set its latest budget - with nearly 500 jobs to be axed in the coming year.

Council chiefs delivered their budget for the year ahead at Shire Hall in Warwick, on Tuesday (February 7), after the ruling Tories spent the morning hammering out the details with their Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition.

It comes after last year's historic budget saw the announcement of 1,800 jobs losses from the council over the next four years - a figure later reduced to around 1,500 posts.

Since last year Tory led Warwickshire County Council has been faced with the difficult task of shedding around £60 million from its overall budget by 2015.

Bob Perks, head of human resources for the county council, said some 1,018 council workers had already left the council, with 300 departing voluntarily or retiring and a further 700 being made redundant, 600 of which were compulsory.

He added: "A further 480 jobs are scheduled to be lost in the coming financial year of 2012-13 with a further 46 anticipated in the following year of 2013-14. Whilst less staff will be leaving, a greater proportion of those that do will be due to compulsory redundancy.

"Whilst we regret having to release any members of staff and have done all we could to help those that have been made redundant, we have worked hard so the impact of the budget cuts was minimised to the public and, where possible, to staff as well.

"It has been a considerable achievement on the part of officers across the county council to have looked at all possible ways to make savings so the figure for job losses has been considerably below the scenario that was forecast when the budget was initially set."

But the opposition Liberal Democrats have called for councillors to be targeted for the cuts, saying the number of posts on the cabinet and extra allowances for 'spokespeople' could be cut to save cash.

Lib Dem Leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse says this could save £51,000 every year which could then be channelled into bringing back free access to computers at Warwickshire's libraries.

He added: "The Conservatives are not cutting their cloth to suit these straitened times. A cabinet of ten members is far too big and paying spokespeople's allowances to members of the same political group is totally unjustified."

"By investing £50,000 we can restore free access to library computers for all residents, helping to reduce the digital divide between the 'haves’ and ‘have nots’ in our society."

Council tax is almost certain to be frozen at its current rate again this year as part of Government incentives not to increase rates for households.

County council leader Alan Farnell said: "We recognise families’ budgets are being squeezed in these constrained times and we remain committed to providing residents with value for money."

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