FRESH fears have emerged over the future at Portsmouth City Council after it was revealed that more than 100 jobs could go in the next round of budget cuts.
Tory council leader Donna Jones says she is leading a drive to cut back yet more staff in each department as the government tightens the amount it contributes for services.
It comes after more than 100 posts from the council’s team of 4,000 workers were axed year when the administration needed to find £13.1m worth of savings.
And another £11m needs to be saved next year, meaning more jobs are at risk.
Cllr Jones believes taking out more than 100 jobs, rather than closing facilities like swimming pools and libraries, will help ensure the public continues getting what they want.
But unions warn staffing levels are already ‘down to the bone’ and workers who keep their jobs will struggle to cope if more pressure is piled on them to keep services afloat.
You can’t just take staff out of the mix and provide the same services. We weren’t an overinflated organisation five years ago, and we have been down to the bone for the last couple of years.Portsmouth City Council Unite union convenor Richard White
Portsmouth City Council Unite union convenor Richard White said: ‘If the council doesn’t want to close services and cut back on staff, at what point do those cuts to staff mean services are unsustainable and there is no-one to deliver them?
‘We need a certain number of people in the city museum to open it, and care homes have minimum staffing levels and they are already at those levels.
‘You can’t just take staff out of the mix and provide the same services. We weren’t an overinflated organisation five years ago, and we have been down to the bone for the last couple of years.’
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said the savings the council wants to make could end up being higher depending on how much the government’s next financial contribution is, due to be agreed in the autumn statement.
He said: ‘There are going to be big job cuts for years to come.’
The council began budget discussions this week.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I value the services we provide for the public.
‘My focus is on how we can look at losing jobs through voluntary redundancy and retirement, so we don’t have to close public services. I would rather through natural wastage lose staff at the council to cut down the wage bill, in order to meet our biggest savings as per the government’s austerity programme.’
Council deputy chief executive Michael Lawther said: ‘The council is in the early stages of planning its next budget. Because of the enormous spending reductions we have to make, it will be extremely hard to avoid some job losses.
‘Final proposals for the budget will not be drawn up until a full consultation has been done with residents, businesses and council staff. This will happen over the autumn.’
Other local councils say they are not looking to reduce the size of their workforces despite the need to make savings.
Gosport Borough Council leader Mark Hook said: ‘There will be savings that will be needed because the revenue support grant we receive will reduce to nothing by the end of the parliament. We will be looking at a reduction of £1.875m over the next four years.’
Fareham leader Sean Woodward said: ‘We have made millions of pounds worth of savings, and managed to do it without whole scale job cuts.
‘Earlier this year, we gave our staff a 6.2 per cent pay rise, which is unique in local government.’