Medway Council approves budget and 157 job losses

Image caption, Medway Council said it had made 'hard choices'

Medway Council has ratified its budget for the next financial year which will see savings of £23m and 157 jobs cut.

Funding for the council, which employs more than 3,000 staff, has been cut by the government by 11.9%.

But councillors said front line services would be safeguarded and council tax would be frozen.

Members of the Unison union said they feared further job cuts and staged a protest outside the council meeting to ratify the budget.

One hundred and thirty of the job losses were announced last year.

Medway Council said none of its libraries or Sure Start children's centres would be closed, and grants for home improvements that allow elderly and disabled people to remain in their own properties would continue.

However, charges for burials and cremations are set to rise, with some internment fees going up by 16% and some digging fees increasing by a third.

'Hard choices'

The council's total budget for 2011-12 will be £386m.

Alan Jarrett, deputy leader of the Conservative-controlled council, and cabinet member for finance, said: "Like all councils, this has left us some hard choices and it has led to a reduction in staff.

"But this budget will allow us to maintain the vital frontline services we provide for more than a quarter of a million residents, 365 days a year and will include a freeze in council tax for everyone in Medway."

In response, the opposition Labour group said it believed the budget was lacking in strategy, and based on "an ideology of cuts that does not offer a clear and prosperous future for Medway".

Councillor Glyn Griffiths, Labour spokesperson for finance, said: "The smoke and mirrors of these cuts is that the impact is unlikely to be seen until after the May election."

Steve Wilkins, the secretary of the Medway branch of Unison, which represents council workers, said the answer was "widespread resistance".

"We want people to resist and refuse to make the cuts, to refuse to co-operate and actually make the cuts unworkable because they are a choice."

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