1,200 Jobs To Go At Hampshire County Council

Hampshire County Council sets out how it will meet £55 million funding gap -which includes the loss of 1,200 jobs.

They've developed cost reduction proposals that will meet a £55million funding gap for 2011/12 and that will help lay the foundations to meet the financial challenges of the years ahead in a sustainable way.

The challenges:

*          Reduction of £30.9 million (14.3%) in Government grant and additional cuts in area based and specific grants for 2011/12 of £14.8million with further grant cuts in years to follow

*          Additional budget pressures of £25.2 million including growing numbers of older people, adults with learning disabilities and families needing support and the increasing complexity of their needs

*          To innovate and modernise services and deliver them with significantly less money while still meeting the needs of Hampshire’s residents

When these funding cuts and demands on the budget are added together and offset by the new grants Government has announced it leaves a total funding gap of £55million for the coming year.

 

Councillor Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said:

“There can be no debate over whether or not we make cuts, the withdrawal of Government funding to meet the national debt leaves us without that choice; the issue is how we face up to these financial challenges, while laying strong foundations for the difficult years beyond.”

The Council’s response to the challenges:

*          A plan that identifies savings and efficiencies that will meet and exceed the requirements for 2011/12

*          Council tax, which is already one of the lowest for County Councils, to be frozen

*          Plans to transform services and restructure in a way that minimises where possible the impact on the most needed services and job losses

The County Council has been developing a programme of work focussing on corporate and overhead costs to transform the way the Council delivers services so that it can do more for less. This includes cutting communications, support and IT costs by around £1million each, renegotiating contracts to secure even better deals, saving in the region of £10millon, cutting senior management costs by 25 per cent, delivering a saving of over £7million and implementing a recruitment freeze and restructuring the authority saving around £4 million.

Councillor Thornber said:

“Included within this programme are plans to reduce our pay bill, which makes up 51 per cent of our overall budget. We have tried to do this in a way that minimises job losses and we hope, where possible, to achieve this through voluntary measures, but sadly there will be some staff who will face compulsory redundancy and we will do what we can to help them in terms of finding future employment and financial planning.”

Efficiencies and restructuring will lead to a reduction in the workforce in 2011/12 of around 1,200 posts or around 8% of the Council’s staff. This figure includes some posts that are already vacant, some where agreement has already been reached with the staff involved and others that are to be consulted on over the coming months. The recruitment freeze will also result in the non-filling of further posts over the coming year. For the remaining posts the Council is looking to minimise compulsory job losses through its voluntary redundancy scheme.

Each service has been asked to identify how they will reduce their costs by 8%, which includes the Corporate Workstreams and these proposals are to be considered by Executive Members this week, ahead of Cabinet on 11 February and Full Council on 24 February when the 2011/12 budget will be set.

Savings proposals include:

*          Reduction in subsidies the council give commercial bus operators to run less used services

*          Prioritisation of grants given to external organisations to focus on priority areas and provide better value money

*          Making the mobile library service more efficient and sustainable

*          Further streamlining of the Integrated Youth Support Service and the development of a targeted youth support service for the most vulnerable children including care leavers, homeless young people and young offenders

*          Development of innovative and cost effective forms of adult social care support such as Extra care housing, Shared Lives carers and the roll-out personalised budgets

Cllr Thornber added:

“What’s been uppermost in our minds is the enormous responsibilities we have to vulnerable children and adults in our care and our desire to protect those most in need as far as possible. The budget for 2011/12 is about priorities. There will be reductions, changes to the way services are delivered and reorganisation but there will also be many things that we retain and which stay the same.”

 

Some of the services to be protected for 2011/12:

*          Child Protection and safeguarding services have been protected from budget cuts ensuring safe social care service continue to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families in need of support

*          The current eligibility criteria for adult social care clients

*          The programme of Highways maintenance to improve the condition and resilience of Hampshire’s Roads

*          The statutory concessionary bus fare scheme

Councillor Thornber said:

“In order to meet the current and future financial challenges we have undertaken a comprehensive review of how the Council operates and of all its services and we are now embarking on a change programme that is of an unprecedented scale. We recognise that this level of change is unsettling and that it would be unsustainable over a long period therefore the Council is keen to make the savings it needs to meet the total grant reductions it faces in two years rather than four.  This is a significant challenge but it will help us to reduce the uncertainty for residents, staff, partners and our suppliers and enable us to refocus on our core business of quality service delivery more quickly.”

Trade unionists in Andover have criticised Hampshire County Council’s decision, claiming there wasn't a word of consultation with its workforce over the cuts.

Andover Trades Union Council has called them “unnecessary” and claim it could only have a devastating effect on services used by some of the most vulnerable in the county, as well as putting loyal public servants on the dole.

ATUC secretary Derek Kotz said:

“This is another massive blow that will have a devastating knock-on effect on the local economy, including the private sector,”

“On top of the hike in VAT, pay freezes, the tripling of student fees and the sharp rise in inflation, ordinary people in Andover and across the country are being punished for a crisis sparked by the unregulated greed of bankers whose noses are still stuck in the trough snaffling up public money.

“The government’s attack on public services and welfare is wrong and totally unnecessary and amounts to making the victims of the recession pay for it with their jobs and services.

“I hope that Andoverians will join the TUC demonstration in London on March 26 to demand an end to it. Andover TUC will be laying on buses and Andover people – workers, pensioners and students – are welcome to join us.

“There is an alternative to the government’s blitzkreig, based on fair taxation and an end to the multi-billion tax-dodging industry, harnessing the banks for social benefit, and investment in services and a massive council-house building programme.”

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