Mid Wales

Powys council cuts: More talks over 200 jobs and budget

Powys council's headquarters
Image caption The job losses could go towards saving £4.8m from the budget

Councillors have deferred a decision on plans to cut around 200 staff at Powys council as the authority bids to balance its budget.

The council is facing a £30m shortfall in funding over the next three years and is planning a range of savings.

There was opposition as councillors met to vote over next year's budget in Llandrindod Wells.

Talks will be held before a final decision on either 4 or 5 March.

The council cabinet, a minority administration controlled by the Shires Group, had also proposed reducing 75% of community grants and charging sixth formers for school transport.

But following objections the cabinet said it now intended to cut community grants by 25% and phase in the reductions over three years.

Meanwhile, there will be further discussions among councillors before a decision in made about school transport for sixth formers.

The full council met on Thursday to vote over next year's budget, but a motion by the Labour group to defer a decision pending further talks about the range of cuts was supported by councillors.

Council leader David Jones said: "I have always recognised I had a minority administration and have to listen to other groups.

"I am content with the recommendation coming forward now."

Aled Davies for the Conservative group said he was unhappy to defer the decision but the leader of the Powys Independent Alliance group, Tony Thomas, had earlier warned of making decisions about the budget "on the hoof".

The meeting also heard the council is to ring fence nearly £3m to contest a major public inquiry into five wind farm applications later this year in Welshpool.

The job losses could save £4.8m and Unison had warned they were the "tip of the iceberg".

Powys council, which has 5,000 full-time staff, revealed last month it was facing a £30m reduction in its base budget over the next three years after receiving the lowest funding increase in Wales.

The Welsh government said at the time that the settlement for councils in Wales was "better than they expected".

The council's cabinet has since approved a new operating model and restructure as part of its response to the financial challenges.

A number of senior posts are under threat as the authority looks to reduce its workforce by 4%.

"The changes will initially affect senior positions and will include a job evaluation process," said council leader Mr Jones, before the meeting.

"We will have a leaner workforce, but one based on more rewarding jobs allowing people to be more productive."

Mr Jones said the council had been warning "fundamental change" was needed, aimed at a leaner and more efficient organisation.

'Cascaded down'

Unison regional organiser Andrew Woodman was critical of the planned job losses.

"The management posts that they have decided to shed are hardly going to be a drop in the ocean in meeting the budget deficit," he said.

"My fear is that these job losses are just the tip of the iceberg and that they will soon be cascaded down through all levels of the council.

"Unison is fully aware of the financial pressures that councils across Wales are facing, but plugging the gap by cutting jobs is not the answer."

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