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Jobs to go as Gravesham Council faces major budget cuts

PUBLISHED: 12:59 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:22 16 December 2010

A protester wears a placard near Parliament

A protester wears a placard near Parliament

2010 Getty Images

Fears of job cuts and council service mergers became reality as Government cuts left councils facing huge budget reductions for the coming years.

Gravesham Borough Council faces a 33 per cent cut in funding, £2.8 million over four years, forcing 66 job cuts and the sharing of services including, building services, fraud and revenue with a number of surrounding councils.

On Monday the government announced a grant settlement for the council showing a 14.7 per cent reduction for 2011/12 and a further 12.5 per cent for 2012/13.

The council had hoped for cuts of around 28 per cent, but put in place plans for a reduction in up to 36.5 per cent, £3.1 million and council Leader Mike Snelling was optimistic about the future.

He said: “This means that we got it right when we began planning our budget a year ago. This is a tough settlement by any standards but Gravesham has been working hard to draw its sting by early implementation of smarter working practices.

“This council has transformed its working and is better placed than many to weather the financial storm that all public spending faces.”

50 jobs have been cut during the past three years through natural wastage and 66 more positions will have to be lost to cover costs. Shared services will include joint management of building control services with Swale and Medway and of revenue management and fraud management with Tonbridge and Malling council.

However a promise of no rise in council tax next year has been given.

Opposition leader John Burden questioned the council’s plans and called for more openness about where money would be saved.

He said: ““Working across departments how could we work better with neighbouring authorities, the private sector, charity groups and so on? They are being totally ignored. We need to look at working with other authorities but to be more open about the direction the council is taking and explaining to people.”

He said the emphasis is too much on making savings and should be more on looking at generating more income. For example, we should be looking at how we can make more income out of the café in the Civic Centre and how we can open up Woodville Halls more, perhaps to put on art shows encouraging local artists, and perhaps renting out space to outside concerns.”

He added he fears the post of Chief Executive, due to be discussed in the new year, could also be shared. “We feel that such a senior position is not suitable for management sharing. We are not happy with that. They have postponed the appointments panel.”

The position is similarly difficult for Kent County Council, which must shave £100 million from its budget.

Leader Paul Carter admitted this was worse than expected. He said: “The real effect of the grant allocation for Kent is an effective reduction of approximately 10 per cent. So we face an immense challenge. The pressures include price inflation in respect of fuel costs and waste contracts, an increase in the number of vulnerable adults and elderly residents to whom we provide care and support, and the needs of children’s social services. My team have been working on this challenge for months. However this settlement from government is worse than we expected.”

Up to 1500 jobs could be cut in the next four years and Cllr Carter added reserves of £115 million may be used to ease the transition and protect frontline services.

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