Another £45m worth of council cuts will see hundreds of job losses in Gateshead.
Civic leaders at Gateshead Council are today back to the cuts drawing board as they once again prepare a two-year budget which will see services axed.
Some 394 posts are set to go, with the council admitting it is “highly unlikely” that compulsory redundancies can be avoided. Since 2010 the council has reduced spending by £75m and there are 1,275 fewer people working for the organisation.
Now the council will once again have to look at closing libraries, reducing care for the elderly and ending services such as school lollipop wardens.
A worst case scenario document even suggests the council considers savings from the events budget used to fund projects such as the Great North City Games, cutting the staff involved.
A review of leisure centres could see facilities at some sites, such as Gateshead Stadium, recommended to be mothballed for years, although the council insists such options are far from certain.
And new fees and fines could be introduced to help fill the funding gap, including collection charges for green household waste and cameras in bus lanes to bring in fines from motorists.
The elderly may also face a potential reduction in care provided.
Council leader Mick Henry said: “We’re facing some of the toughest financial challenges in our history. We’ve already reduced our spending by £75m since 2010; but, because of further cuts in government funding, if we continue to provide services in the same way as we do now, we’ll have a shortfall of around £45m by 2016.
“As the Government is determined to cut our funding for vital public services further, the council needs to make choices about the services it offers to its residents, including how they are provided.
“We’ve identified choices to help fill the gap, but we need to know which services Gateshead residents value the most, and sadly, where they may be prepared to see reductions or changes in delivery, in order to protect services for those who need them most.”
“There are difficult choices to be made, which could mean stopping or reducing some services; or asking people to pay more; or doing things differently including working with partners and communities in new ways to support local services.
“These choices may be tough, but we’re committed to providing services for the most vulnerable in our communities and helping Gateshead’s economy grow, to create jobs and make sure that Gateshead is in a strong position in future years.”
The council’s plans to target motorists with increased parking charges and new bus lane fines come after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles hit out at councils who seek to solve funding woes by targeting motorists.
The minister has already challenged the use of CCTV cars to catch those who break parking rules.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference, Mr Pickles said: “It’s okay for local authorities to say ‘oh, it’s all to save the children’. No it isn’t. What this is about is raking in pretty large sums of money to fill the councils’ coffers.”
The budget suggestions will be put before Gatehead’s cabinet next week before a full consultation starts.