Lower council tax = job losses

COUNCIL staff were warned last night they could face another wave of redundancies in a bid to maintain low council tax rises.Suffolk Coastal District Council agreed to limit the rise for 2004-05 to 4.

COUNCIL staff were warned last night they could face another wave of redundancies in a bid to maintain low council tax rises.

Suffolk Coastal District Council agreed to limit the rise for 2004-05 to 4.9% for band D payers – an increase of just under 11p a week. When the increases for the county council, police authority, and town and parish councils are added the average rise will be 4.5%.

The Woodbridge-based Conservative-run local authority has already made job cuts at all levels and last night Ray Herring, council leader, told the budget-setting full council meeting that further redundancies could not be ruled out.

''We are trying to minimise the number of redundancies. From a staff point of morale it is important we minimise it. But at the end of the day if we want an effective, stream-lined organisation and management structure, then I can not guarantee there will not be any redundancies. It is one of those things and sometimes hard choices have to be made,'' said cllr Herring.


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But a row broke out over the council's use of consultants who were paid to help the council make savings. John Kelso, a Liberal Democrat, claimed that the council had paid between £750,000 and £800,000 on consultancy fees and then only made a saving of £1.1m for the next financial year's budget.

Cllr Kelso said too much money had been wasted on consultants and the staff had been left feeling demoralised.

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However, cllr Herring said he believed the quoted figures were inaccurate and he added that the council would save in the region of £3m over a three-year period.

''We have to invest to save. We have put in new performance systems and we need help with a complex range of processes running up and down the council for it to be as efficient as possible,'' he said.

Christine Block, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the council had incurred a considerable short-term expense in either making staff redundant or accepting voluntary redundancy. ''We shall soon see numbers reduced again. Will all this pay off ?'' she said.

The council has saved £432,000 on staff costs and it hopes to raise £200,000 from increased car park charges.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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