Up to 2,000 Leeds council jobs - more than 15 per cent or one in six of the total workforce - could be axed in the next four years as under-pressure civic hall bosses try to balance the books.
Leeds City Council made the bombshell announcement last night, as its leader Judith Blake urged the new Government under Theresa May to “consider a change of direction in relation to deficit reduction and potential future funding for local Government”.
In a starkly worded extended statement ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting next week, the authority confirmed that “between now and 2020 the council has identified it will need to reduce the size of the workforce by perhaps up to 2,000 (full time equivalent) people”.
“A key implication of the challenges facing the council due to the increased funding cuts from the Government will be on its own workforce,” the statement added.
“Wherever possible the council will still try to manage reductions voluntarily however if they become unavoidable any compulsory redundancies will be managed openly and fairly in line with the policies agreed with the trade unions.”
According to latest available figures, Leeds City Council currently employs just under 15,000 people, with 12,708 full time equivalent positions.
By the end of the current year, Leeds’ core funding from the Government will have been cut by around £214 million since 2010. The authority estimates that when this figure is added to other “demand led pressures”, it will have had to deliver a total saving of around £400m by March 2017.
The council’s cabinet will next week consider how key services will be safeguarded, but taxpayers are being warned to expect the worst - and try their best.
The authority’s official statement said it is “currently reviewing all services to see where potential savings can be identified and income generated, and also where reductions in the workforce could happen with the least impact on public services”.
The statement went on: “All areas of the council have been asked to make savings and efficiencies, although the council remains committed to protecting front-line services, especially those which protect the vulnerable.”
Referring to the toll on the authority’s own workers, it said: “Over the past six years the council has already had to make significant staffing reductions, but through managing the process carefully through normal staff turnover and a voluntary early leavers scheme, compulsory redundancies have been largely avoided.
“However in order to meet the very tight financial targets and ensure that key services are able to continue, the council can no longer be confident that compulsory redundancies can be avoided.”
The statement went on to say that the exact number of redundancies “that might be necessary” was not yet known, nor was “exactly where in the council they would be needed”.
“But those who are affected will receive all the necessary support and guidance to make the process as smooth as possible,” it added.
Coun Blake said: “We look forward with interest to what direction the new Government takes in the Autumn Statement in relation to deficit reduction and its impact on funding for vital public services.
“However, the current grant settlement as it stands means it will be incredibly difficult to continue to protect those services. That said, as a council we will do all we can to minimise the effect of the cuts on vulnerable people as well as on our own workforce.”
The council leader added: “All residents can also do their bit in their own homes and communities to help our city reduce the amount of public money we need to spend.
“For example, residents who look out for their relatives and neighbours can free up the demand on social services and those who make good use of our recycling services can help reduce the amount we have to spend on household waste disposal.
“By picking up litter in your local community less public money would be also needed for street cleansing.”