Jobs at risk at Colchester council as financial hit from Covid gets worse

Colchester council could have to cut jobs. Picture: COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL

Colchester council could have to cut jobs. Picture: COLCHESTER BOROUGH COUNCIL - Credit: Colchester Borough Council

Up to 27 jobs could be lost at Colchester Borough Council as the administration looks to cut costs after suffering during the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown.

The council’s cabinet has agreed a series of measures, including dipping into reserves, to try to balance its books – but warned there could still be tough decisions over the next few months.

Cabinet members have been forced to trim £1.7 million from next year’s budget through a combination of efficiency measures – including the potential loss of up to 27 full time posts – and increased fees and charges for services like planning, allotments and car parks.

The severity of the financial challenge from coronavirus is expected to see commercial income almost halve, as the council faces losses of more than £11m this year and further losses in later years.

Government support will help, in part, but this year only. In these circumstances, Cabinet accepted the council may have to use £6.2m of reserves across over the next two years, despite job cuts and savings, and still have a £2.6m budget gap for 2022/23 to plug.

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David King, Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, said: “The Government has fallen short on its promise to fully compensate councils for the losses and extra costs of dealing with this unprecedented health and economic crisis. We appeal to them to help now and from next year onwards, as we face huge income losses not of our making.

“We can, for now, balance the books. We can continue to serve our residents well. But only by deep cuts to planned spend this year and because we are able, due to past prudence, to dig deep into our reserves. But we can only spend those reserves once.

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Council leader Mark Cory added: “Like many organisations and businesses in Colchester, the council has suffered financially as a result of Covid and we need to look at transforming and how we make savings. The scale of the challenge means difficult decisions are inevitable, sadly.

“We will be working closely with all our staff, especially those potentially impacted by these proposals, and the unions to ensure we give them all the necessary support through this unsettling period.”

The proposals, which received cross-party support from the Scrutiny Panel on 13 October, will now go forward for public consultation and further consideration by members in January 2021.

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