Scores to quit Leeds City Council as cuts biting

Hundreds of staff are preparing to quit Leeds City Council over then next few months as jobs are shed to cut costs.

The council is seeking savings of 90m in the next financial year to help it cope with big reductions in government grant.

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Council bosses have said about 3,000 jobs will go over the next four years to help the country's second biggest local authority balance its books and, in the first wave, 571 people will have left by the end of March, the council's central and corporate scrutiny board heard.

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Staffing costs the council 442m a year and it has been estimated that sum could be reduced by about 30m during 2011-12 through voluntary early retirement, voluntary redundancy, continuation of a recruitment freeze and spending less on employing agency workers.

The council is also looking to chop 20 per cent off its senior management costs over the next two years, partly through restructuring along with retirement and voluntary severance.

Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, said: "If something goes wrong because of a shortage of staff, people will accuse us of cutting too much."

The board heard that a public consultation exercise launched by the council late last year to give people their say over possible service cuts had attracted just 1,521 responses - 0.25 per cent of the city's population.

Coun Wakefield added: "That's not a fantastic response for a city the size of Leeds."

He suggested the questionnaire people were asked to complete might have been too "long-winded" and difficult to get through.

Jobs, skills, services for elderly people, children's services and community safety were among the things people said should be spending priorities.

Coun Wakefield said: "The responses echo the concerns we all have but work is needed to tease out more information from the surveys."

Daniel Rajkumar

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