Leeds & West Yorkshire

Leeds City Council seeks volunteers to leave early

Leeds Civic Hall
Image caption Leeds City Council says it has sent letters out to 22,000 of its 33,000 employees

Thousands of council staff in Leeds are being asked to consider leaving or retiring early as the authority braces itself for deep spending cuts.

Letters have been sent to 22,000 of Leeds City Council's 33,000 employees asking them to register an interest in leaving early or cutting their hours.

The letter says the authority "will be a smaller organisation in three years".

The council expected "several hundred" people to apply, but savings achieved would dwarf the costs of severance pay.

The city council has already been told by the government that this year alone it will have £19m less to spend than anticipated.

By 2015, the authority forecast it would have to reduce its budget by about £150m.

Council leader Keith Wakefield said: "The council has said all along that it wanted to avoid making compulsory redundancies, offering staff the chance to leave is one way we're doing just that.

"No-one likes having to let people go, but we have to face up to the massive challenges the council faces over the coming years and balance the budget while protecting frontline services.

"We already know that we will have many millions of pounds less to spend by 2015, so we simply won't be able to afford such a big workforce in future."

The council said the financial impact of the early retirement and early severance schemes, while designed to be attractive to staff, would be "minimal compared to the savings achieved".

Workers over 55, who are in the pension scheme, are entitled to register their interest for early retirement and other staff can opt for voluntary severance. Casual, temporary workers and school-based staff are not eligible.

The maximum benefit will be 30 weeks pay for someone who has worked for the council for 20 years. Staff who have worked 12 months would be paid a week and a half's wages.

Alternatively, staff are invited to reduce their hours temporarily or permanently or apply for an unpaid career break.

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