Job cuts loom as council faces its ‘cliff edge’

JOB cuts are inevitable at the council as it bids to save £1.2m to pull back from the financial “cliff edge.”

That was the grim warning from leader Jeremy Birch as he tried to address the massive shortfall in funding facing the authority.

Cllr Birch was speaking to the cabinet committee on Monday ahead of his cap-in-hand trip to Westminster this week.

During the last two years the council’s cash grant funding from central government could be reduced by 50 per cent.

The committee heard how the authority had been forced to make dramatic savings. A shared grounds maintenance contract has been undertaken with Rother District Council and Amicus Horizon which is expected to save £300,000.

The chief executive post was removed and several heads of department were lost saving another £375,000 a year.

A Mid Term Strategy has been produced by head of finance, Peter Grace, to identify areas of key financial uncertainty in the coming years.

Cllr Birch told the committee how he would be travelling to Westminster the following day to meet with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis.

He was one of 12 council representatives who were invited to discuss whether the authority would receive a share of £20m government funding for next year called a Transition Grant.

Cllr Birch said: “We are on a cliff edge. There is no other council in East Sussex that is being hit has hard as we are. We have got to find £1.2m as a result of the governments budget deficit reduction.We are the most vulnerable town in the South East area.”

Cllr Emily Westley added: “We have had 12 per cent of cuts already and we are still struggling. What will be the impact on our town?”

Cllr Andrew Gurney said: “This is the card that we have been dealt and we have just got to get on with it.”

The authority will find out next month whether it has received a Transition Grant.Last month around 400 staff were called to St Mary In The Castle to be briefed on the latest financial situation.

Speaking outside the meeting Cllr Birch said: “There will be some loss of jobs and services.

“We simply will not be able to do all the things that we currently do. There will also be changes in council tax and business rate revenue which will affect us. Two years ago we were in a similar position and we had to lose 40 posts. We have asked employees to come forward for voluntary redundacy and I believe there will also be some who would like to take the opportunity to retire.But I can not guarantee there will not be any compulsory redundancies.

“We will balance the books but not without any pain.”