Council to shed 40 jobs in wake of funding cuts

THE COUNCIL has finally announced it is cutting 40 jobs in the wake of losing an “unprecedented” £1.7 million in government funding.

All 400 staff were due to be invited to St Mary-in-the-Castle yesterday(THURS) to be told the news.

A number of staff were set to be handed letters warning them their jobs were at risk.

Out of the 40 job losses, 12 are post which were vacant but will now be withdrawn permanently.

It is the second major wave of cuts in two years after the authority shed up to 40 posts in January 2011.

Council leader, Jeremy Birch, who warned last year of more impending cuts, said: “We are still teetering on the brink. “Next year will be even worse.”

The authority is facing an 8.8 per cent cut in its spending power as a result of central government funding cuts, the largest of any authority in the south of England according to cllr Birch.

The figures for authority cutbacks were released by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It identified that just up the road at Surrey Heath council, only 1.2 per cent of its spending power will be lost.

Cllr Birch claims this is because it is a prosperous area and did not need the support grants which Hastings was entitled to.

Hastings Borough Council’s budget gap for 2013-14 starts at £3.2 million. The following financial year it will face a £1.2m gap in funding and up to £2.5m for 2015/16.

The job losses will affect staff across the board from administration, legal and finance personnel to building management and marketing.

To try and bridge the funding shortfall the authority is drafting in a number of changes from April 1.

The tourism budget will be cut by £50,000 and event support will be reduced by £20,000.

Off-street parking charges will rise by 10p per hour and parking charges at the Hastings Country Park will double to £2 all day.

The council has already saved £1m from signing a joint waste management deal with the other East Sussex

authorities and a new parks and gardens contract with Rother District Council and AmicusHorizon.

It also saved £375,000 per year by cutting senior management roles.

Cllr Birch said: “These are unprecedented times.

“I’m hopeful we will get people coming forward for voluntary redundancy but there will inevitably

be some staff who face losing their job.

“We are one of the poorest towns in the south east region but are receiving some of the highest funding cuts.

“Since 2010 all councils have suffered a reduction in their mainstream funding.

“Hastings has seen the ending of the extra money we had such as the Working Neighbourhoods grant.

“That’s why the cuts for us are worse than places like Surrey Heath because they never had any grants to lose as they were too prosperous.

“We’re trying to make sure the fall isn’t too hard and there aren’t too many broken bones when we hit the bottom.”