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6,000 more jobs to go as Birmingham council set to slash workforce by half

6,000 more jobs to go as Birmingham council set to slash workforce by half

🕔16.Sep 2014

As many as 6,000 Birmingham city council jobs will disappear over the next two years as the authority faces its worst ever funding crisis, reports Paul Dale from the monthly city council meeting.

A combination of savage cuts in government grant and soaring demand for social care will result in a 46 per cent reduction in the workforce by 2017-18 as the council attempts to find more than £200 million in savings to balance its books.

Most of the people that stand to lose their jobs are likely to face compulsory redundancy.

Sir Albert Bore, the Labour council leader, said the lost jobs and inevitable cuts to services would send a “seismic shock” through remaining employees who would end up working harder and longer as a result.

Three years ago the city council employed 20,000 people – already massively down on the record levels of over 30,000 in the 1980s.

By 2017-18 the workforce will be about 7,000 – down by two-thirds in just three years.

Sir Albert drew a comparison with the closure of the Longbridge Rover car works in 2005. The loss of city council jobs since 2010 was equivalent to “two Longbridges”, he said.

Repeating his mantra that “this is the end of local government as I have known it”, Sir Albert said it was now a “certainty” that the council would be forced to discontinue a range of non-statutory services next year.

He warned: “We are just going to have to explain to people that we won’t be able in the future to do many of the things that we have been able to do in the past. We simply won’t have the resources to do it.”

Council staff still in a job would have to develop a broader range of skills and “stretch their professional expertise”, he added.

Birmingham has either planned or delivered spending cuts amounting to almost half a billion pounds since 2010.

The figure is likely to rise to about £900 million by 2017-18, equivalent to half of the revenue budget.

A review is underway of what the council currently does and will eventually produce a list of services to be discontinued, or handed over to the voluntary sector.

The public service union Unite described the job losses as “savage”.

Regional Secretary Gerard Coyne said: “This will be a crippling blow to the West Midlands regional economy as we estimate that for every pound spent on council staff wages 52 pence is spent locally.”

Sir Albert said he wasn’t “ruling in or out” the possibility of privatising the refuse collection service, while moves to sell the NEC Group were proceeding satisfactorily. However, he added: “Even with things like this we can’t come anywhere near the £200 million we need to find next year.”

Council staff were “working above and beyond the call of duty” with tremendous commitment to public services.

Sir Albert added: “They can’t go on like this. They are tired and probably disillusioned and the latest announcement will run through the organisation like a seismic shock.”

He rejected claims that the council had been hugely over-staffed in the past.

“Staff tell me how much harder they seem to be working and I would say to councillors that they have to realise they can no longer get people to do something tomorrow. We won’t have the staff to get something done immediately.”

In a statement to the monthly city council meeting Sir Albert said the council faced a “ticking time bomb” and had not managed staff reductions very efficiently in the past.

He added: “Clearly we cannot continue with anything like the range of activities we have delivered in the past. Too often we operate as if we had exactly the same resources as before and we often expect the impossible from our staff. This cannot continue.”

Apart from financial strain, Birmingham city council faces an alarming demographic crisis with a rapidly ageing workforce.

More than 90 per cent of staff are aged between 40 and 69. The council employs only 874 staff under the age of 29.

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