Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fear for 3,000 Council Jobs; Warning over 'Tough Times That Lie Ahead'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fear for 3,000 Council Jobs; Warning over 'Tough Times That Lie Ahead'

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent

THE COST of the new Northumberland council could see up to 3,000 jobs cut and taxes rise, it was claimed last night.

A leading opposition councillor warned the new authority would have to shed at least 1,900 posts, although the figure could be 1,000 more, and predicted tax rises of up to 5% because of the impact of proposed money-saving cuts.

He also spoke of the possibility of ditching the whole unitary project.

The predictions come as councillors work to set a budget for the authority by next February. Northumberland County Council has insisted it is still planning to equalise council tax to the lowest level in the county and played down suggestions of 3,000 job losses.

But according to private briefings allegedly given to councillors, there are long-term projections which use calculations based on 5% increases in the years up to 2013 and four-figure job losses.

Blyth Valley councillor and Labour group spokesman Bob Watson said following the private briefings he believed the true cost of moving to a unitary authority covering all of Northumberland will be seen in service cuts, thousands of job losses and a rise in council tax bills.

Mr Watson, a member of the county council's Implementation Forum in charge of overseeing the transition, said a previous blueprint for change which included cost savings and job losses of around 100 back office staff was now effectively "useless".

The council is currently facing a pounds 55m black hole as a result of efficiency savings, which are likely to still be affecting finances by 2013, according to some estimates.

When the council made its successful bid to the Government for the changes, it indicated it would achieve pounds 17m in savings to be ploughed back into frontline services.

Mr Watson said: "Roughly speaking we have maybe 19,000 employees, of whom more than half are in education and their role is ring fenced. …

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