Dorset council agrees 500 jobs to go due to budget cuts

Image caption,
Unison says the cuts will "devastate" people's lives

More than 500 jobs will be lost at Dorset County Council after the authority agreed £31m of budget cuts.

The Conservative-led council agreed to axe £200,000 from school crossing patrols and £800,000 from its library budget, which will see some closures.

The council employs 4,500 staff, who are being asked to take a 5% pay cut by taking 12 days of unpaid leave.

Council leader Angus Campbell said front-line services will inevitably be affected in the future.

There will also be a 10% reduction in senior management costs across the council.

The Dorchester-based council is currently consulting with trade unions about taking 12 days unpaid leave and other changes to terms and conditions, which could come into effect by January 2012.

'Uncertain future'

It will also reduce road maintenance in rural areas, some youth services and passenger transport to help balance the books.

About two-thirds of the savings will be found through efficiencies and "back-office" spending reductions, rather than through front-line public services, and the council tax will be frozen for the year.

Mr Campbell said the council had lost out on about £18m in government grants.

"This is the harshest local government settlement in living memory," he said.

"We have had to work very hard and fast in our drive towards a balanced budget.

He added that he had personally lobbied Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for more flexibility in finding the savings over four years, but that such freedom was "not forthcoming".

"It is a matter of particular regret to me that the extraordinary financial situation imposed upon us is making life so difficult and uncertain for many," he said.

Pamela Jefferies, from the Dorset branch of public sector union Unison, said the cuts would "devastate" people's lives.

"Out services will be cut, staff will be out of jobs and those that stay in jobs are going to be faced with lower terms and conditions.

"These are big cuts to people's standards of living, it means having to make serious choices about how they spend their money."

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