Councils across England have shed 145,000 jobs over the past year and the number is set to rise, according to a report published today by the Audit Commission and Local Government Association.
The report, Work in Progress: Meeting Local Needs with Lower Workforce Costs, found councils have been “trying hard” to avoid redundancies by reducing their spend on agency staff, cutting overtime and bonuses, freezing recruitment and extending part-time working.
But it warned that further job losses “will be unavoidable, as part of a cost-cutting mix likely to include organisational change, sharing services and outsourcing”.
Responding to the findings, Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield, said: “Councils have already made far more job cuts than they said would be necessary. This report shows that the worst is yet to come.
“Unison members have been hit hard, as they struggle to pay bills in the face rising costs. Council workers are covering large numbers of deleted and frozen posts on a two-year pay freeze, without the £250 compensation promised by Chancellor George Osborne for the lowest paid.”
Wakefield added that social care workers were among the groups facing the largest cuts.
However, Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association, defended the job cuts. “Unfortunately, in the current climate, councils have had to take some tough decisions in order to bring their workforce costs down, continue to provide essential services and minimise job losses,” he said.
“This is part and parcel of sound and responsible financial management.”
Michael O’Higgins, chairman of the Audit Commission, added: “[The report] recommends quick action to decide on the most effective and equitable solutions. But it also advises that there is a balance to be struck between redundancy programmes and the benefits that can flow from retraining, redeploying, or sharing staff with other organisations.”
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