Council employees wait to learn fate

THOUSANDS of council staff will early learn next month how many of their jobs are under threat as Suffolk grapples with a multi-million pound black hole in its budget caused by a cut in Government grant.

By Graham Dines

THOUSANDS of council staff will early learn next month how many of their jobs are under threat as Suffolk grapples with a multi-million pound black hole in its budget caused by a cut in Government grant.

The county council is planning to give details of its cuts and spending plans to its 24,000 full and part-time shortly after the New Year and will then brief the media so that the public is given a clear picture of how much pressure it is under following the 2.9% increase it has been awarded in funding from Whitehall.

This year's award is in stark contrast to the settlement for the current financial year, when a 6% increase was swelled by a one-off £3m grant in Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-General Election Budget.


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The council's spending proposals for the year beginning April 1 will then be scrutinised by special sub-committees of the authority before a recommendation on the increase in council tax is put before the ruling cabinet on February 2. A final decision on next year's tax rates will be made by a full meeting of the authority on February 21.

With schools having been given cash direct from the Government, the axe will have to fall on County Hall departments which cover planning, transportation, environment, social care, libraries, fire services and public protection.

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Trade union leaders fear jobs will have to be axed. The county council's Unison secretary Malcolm Gibbs said: “It is very unsettling at this time of year. We don't have any details about the kinds of numbers the council will be looking at but we fear it could be more than 100.

“This is all down to the level of grant that came to Suffolk from central government, but having said that, we all hope we can avoid job losses if at all possible.”

The union has sent out a letter to all its members explaining the situation and warning that if negotiations are not successful, it may have to consider balloting on industrial action.

The council's spending in the current financial year is £656.6 million. Council tax went up by 2.5% in April and council leaders are unlikely to want next year's figure to be much higher than inflation.

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