EXCLUSIVE: Jobs and services are facing the axe after Lichfield District Council outlined plans to help plug a £1.7million gap in its budget.
Staff and councillors have already been briefed about the widespread cuts which will impact on a number of services, with the local authority confirming that a number of community and partnership services will end.
Around 20 posts are affected as the first stage of filling a budget hole created by the Government’s decision to remove the £2.7million of funding it awards to Lichfield District Council each year by 2019.
As well as jobs and partnership services being on the line, council leader Mike Wilcox warned that leisure facilities, youth clubs, sport sessions and playschemes across the district could also be hit.
“Like councils across the country, we are facing tough decisions as a result of central government funding cuts,” he admitted. “Next year alone we need to save more than £1.7 million and we are facing significant cuts in future years.
“To help reduce our budgets, whilst protecting key services, we have launched a savings programme called Fit for the Future. It includes a fundamental review of the structure of the authority.
“As part of this, we have assessed local people’s views as well as ideas from across the whole council, to come up with a package of proposed measures worth around £1million. The proposals will be considered by councillors in the next few months. They will look at changes and cuts in community and partnerships, leisure and operational services.
“Under the proposals many of our community and partnerships services will be stopped, but we’ll continue to offer support in areas such as community safety, safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, equalities, work clubs and our grant aid programme.
“Plans also include reducing opening times at King Edward VI Leisure Centre, running a smaller playschemes programme from 2014, and reducing sports sessions, youth clubs and exercise classes.
“With the scale of savings, it is inevitable some jobs will be affected. Our aim is to try to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies, but we know we will not be able to avoid them. From the changes identified so far, about 20 posts will be directly affected and this will regrettably lead to redundancies. We have informed these employees about the proposed changes and they are being provided with full support.”
And the pain may not end there for local residents with further money-saving measures being examined, including charging for access to public toilets in the city.
“The current proposals will be considered by councillors in the next few months,” Cllr Wilcox explained.
“Councillors will also look at proposals to charge for Shopmobility and public toilets, as well as reduce our emergency planning, grounds maintenance, street cleansing and CCTV budgets. These savings will be achieved by taking advantage of new contracts and won’t reduce the services customers are used to receiving.
“While we have found considerable savings so far, we will continue to review our services over the coming months to ensure that they are delivered in the most cost effective way for our customers and within the resources we will have available.”
One council worker – who did not want to be named – said the cuts marked the start of a “slippery slope” for the local authority.
“The local councillors haven’t got a grip on this at all,” he said. “They have been railroaded into this and haven’t stood up to the plans.
“How did Lichfield District Council not have the reserves to avoid this?
“There needs to be a debate about it. We’ll lose local control and services will have to be contracted out if these cuts go ahead.”