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2,800 Midlands council jobs could go in cuts

Around 2,800 council staff face losing their jobs in Staffordshire and the Black Country in the next year, figures reveal today.


Around 2,800 council staff face losing their jobs in Staffordshire and the Black Country in the next year, figures reveal today.

Tackling Britain's £178 billion deficit will force the majority of cuts to West Midland council budgets to come this year.

Local authority leaders today described how they hope budgets due to be approved over the next few weeks will be enough to cope with £136 million of cuts to come in 2011/12. As many as one in 20 council workers in the region could be out of a job by the end of the financial year.

Wolverhampton's Labour council leader Roger Lawrence has just unveiled budget cuts of £35m this coming year as part of a budget shortfall of £60m over four years on top of £40m of savings already found .

He said: "Wolverhampton is losing the equivalent of £85.80 per head of population. Shire areas are losing far less."

Councillor Lawrence is most concerned about the loss of the £7m from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, which among other things provided cash to train young people and help them find jobs.

Public sector job losses are putting pressure on a West Midlands economy already under strain. This week it was revealed 261,000 people were unemployed in the region, a rise of 28,000 in the last quarter.

Around 450 people will leave Wolverhampton City Council next year and it is hoped that as many as possible will take voluntary redundancy.

Finding volunteers to quit in Dudley has not been a problem. More than 1,100 came forward when the council revealed it wanted 400 to leave this year and 800 over three years. More than half of them had to be turned down because the council could not afford to lose the posts.

Councillor Les Jones, the Tory deputy leader said: "For us the more people that volunteer to leave, the fewer compulsory redundancies we have to make - but we have to make sure that services can run to the required standard. From a selfish point of view it would have been easier to spread this over four years but public services often run on inertia and forcing them to confront their spending and face change can be a good thing."

Handling the cuts will be an expensive business. Walsall is going to put £232,000 into self-service machines in libraries next year. None are set to close but a review is being carried out. Council leader Mike Bird said that some buildings may have to close but the library service would be moved elsewhere in the community or running it could be passed on to a community group.

Birmingham City Council is axing 4,300 posts and transferring 3,000 schools staff to a new "co-operative".

The big test for local authorities over the coming 12 months will be whether they can stick to the cuts they have outlined without dipping too far into their reserve funds.

Another round of funding cuts in 2012/13 will come on the back of council tax freezes this year meaning they will start in an even worse position than this year.

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