Blackburn council plans redundancies to meet government spending targets
9:20am Saturday 14th July 2012 in News
BLACKBURN council has admitted for the first time that it will have to make staff compulsorily redundant to make the spending cuts demanded by the government.
The borough’s finance boss Andy Kay confirmed that its Labour leaders were ready to force staff to leave jobs as he was accused of saving money for a rainy day.
Tory leader Michael Lee said that the authority’s underspend of £6.27 million in 2011/12 - four per cent of a total approved budget of £154.85 million - looked like cutting vital services to put money in the bank for future government council grant cuts.
He highlighted grass cutting and street cleaning as two areas where cutbacks seemed to being made unnecessarily quickly.
At the council’s ruling cabinet meeting, he said he had managed to prevent a proposed end to grass cutting on Grasmere Avenue, where the average age of residents was over 70, but had been told by officers that no promise could be made to continue the services on verges in the future.
Coun Lee also questioned why £2.8 million set aside for redundancy payments by the council but not used had not been made available to spend on vital services.
Executive member for resources Coun Kay said he was being prudent in making sure there was money left in the kitty for the remaining 12 months of a two year budgeting process.
On the £2.8 million, he told Coun Lee: “I have no doubt that we will have to make compulsory redundancies and will have to pay out this money.”
He said the council needed to keep its reserves topped up to deal with the effect of government cutbacks in the grant to Blackburn-with-Darwen expected to come in at between £8 million and £27 million next year.
Coun Kay added: “This saving is not going to solve the problem but it puts us in good stead for the future.”
After the meeting Coun Kay said: “I cannot say how many compulsory redundancies there will be because it depends on how much the government cuts our budget. Council staff are the only realisable assets we have to cut our annual spending. Even selling property is just a one-off payment.”