200 Gateshead Council staff face redundancies

UP to 200 compulsory redundancies could be forced on to a council as part of a £22m budget blow.

Coun. Mick Henry from Gateshead Council pictured overlooking land between Gateshead's Baltic and Sage

UP to 200 compulsory redundancies could be forced on to a council as part of a £22m budget blow.

Civic leaders at Gateshead Council will meet this week to agree a budget that will see up to 350 job losses, many of which could be compulsory.

Council boss Mick Henry will become the first North East local authority leader to admit the true extent of compulsory redundancies when his cabinet meets tomorrow.

The Labour councillor has also revealed he is backing down from a council tax increase, a move which was being considered in order to avoid a funding black hole in a few years’ time.

Instead, Mr Henry is bowing to Government pressure and accepting a grant that will freeze the tax this year.

His budget, the result of Government funding cuts, will see charges for pest control, bulky waste and some car parking spaces increased.

Funding for the care of some of the borough’s elderly and most vulnerable will also be reassessed as the council looks to reduce the amount it pays out.

Some £305,000 will be cut from libraries and arts services. Staffing reductions are likely and there is talk of voluntary groups being brought in to help keep some libraries open.

Budget documents setting out spending for the next financial year, and indications of the year after, show Christmas lights will also be axed.

Savings will be made with the planned closures of Central Nursery and Birtley Crematorium, as well move to switch off or dim street lights.

However, there is a reprieve for under-threat countryside services. The council said it will continue to support the countryside team by keeping two posts and will also work with volunteers.

A proposed cut to lollipop ladies is also watered down. The council will continue funding for the coming year, except for lunchtime crossings and those where alternative safe traffic controls are already in place.

Mr Henry said: “This budget, like last year’s, is a result of deep cuts by the Government. We faced tough choices and we will have to make some incredibly difficult decisions.

“We’ve been listening to the public’s views on our service and how we should spend our money, so we can still deliver the priority services that residents have told us they want.

“We thank everyone who took the time to respond and help us with these difficult choices. We have produced a budget based on fairness. We listened to what people told us, we looked carefully at the proposals and we’ve taken account of the concerns raised.

“We’ve made changes to our plans for school crossing patrols, Bill Quay Farm, the voluntary sector and many others.

“We are doing all we can to be fair, protecting the most vulnerable in our community and reducing the impact on frontline services that people rely on.

“We are also freezing council tax so there will be no increase in bills and we have to support economic recovery in our borough.

“Despite the financial difficulties we’re all facing, we are still determined to work towards our ambitious vision for Gateshead.

“Regrettably, these cuts mean that more jobs will be lost, but we're doing all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible.”


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