South East Wales

Torfaen council plans to axe 80 jobs and save £9.2m

Council workers
Image caption The council said it needed to save £9.2m to balance the books

A council is planning to cut 80 jobs as it becomes the latest to outline proposals to tackle budget deficits.

Torfaen County Borough Council said it needed to save £9.2m to balance the books next year.

A report to councillors said discussions were already under way with unions to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies.

Consultation with affected staff will begin once councillors make their decision at a meeting next week.

The report going to next Tuesday's cabinet seeks approval for the budget proposals, including savings across all service areas.

It also outlines discussions with unions to reduce compulsory redundancies through voluntary redundancies, redeployment opportunities and reducing other workforce costs, including changes to the severance scheme.

The council is also discussing with unions seeking expressions of interest for voluntary reduced hours, additional unpaid leave, unpaid sabbaticals, career breaks, flexible retirement and term-time working.

A final budget will be submitted to full council on 1 March.

The council received a 1.7% cash reduction in funding, with capital funding set to fall by nearly 20%.

"Like all other Welsh councils, change is necessary to bridge the gap between cuts and the rising cost and demand for services, however, we will make every effort to protect key services," said councillor Marlene Thomas, executive member for resources.

"This will be the year when forecasts and estimates hit home and the public sector will make very difficult choices, which impact upon citizens."

Council leader Bob Wellington said: "This has been our most difficult budget ever, set within a perfect storm of increased costs and a real term reduction in cash.

"Our aim is to protect valued services and jobs, and while the budget proposals will require voluntary and compulsory redundancies, job losses are forecast to be lower than early predictions.

"I am conscious that residents are feeling the pinch of recession and face similar decisions to make ends meet. Quite simply, it is our duty to make sure that every pound is put to its best use."

The Welsh Local Government Association, which represents 22 councils in Wales, said local authorities were facing "extremely challenging cuts" with workforce costs making up over 50% of council spending.

Peter Short, Unison regional organiser covering Torfaen council, said: "This is the inevitable effect of the government's austerity programme that are having an impact on our members' jobs and services for the people of Torfaen.

"We are in discussions with Torfaen, which are far from complete, about measures to mitigate the impact, to protect jobs and services, and we want to see the avoidance of any compulsory redundancies.

"The situation is very serious and worrying for our members."

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