08:00 Saturday 02 March 2013

Tories 'plan to freeze tax knowing it will cost jobs'

Written byADRIAN JENKINS

A SENIOR Labour councillor has accused Tory local authority chiefs of ‘planning to freeze council tax knowing full well it is going to cost jobs’.

Trevor Southerd, who represents the Church Gresley ward on South Derbyshire District Council, attacked the leadership amid reports that plans are being drawn up to restructure the authority’s management.

A well-placed external source has already given the Mail the name of one manager scheduled to leave the council in the spring as part of its efforts to save £300,000 a year to avert a debt crisis.

The need to find the savings has been triggered partly by the cumulative effect of council tax freezes, the latest of which is expected to be forced through by the Tories during what is likely to be a stormy meeting of the full council on Thursday.

Anticipating the move, recommended by the authority’s finance and management committee, Councillor Southerd said: “They are planning to freeze tax knowing full well this is going to cost jobs. It’s sad that’s the only option.

“It’s always abhorrent when people are forced to leave jobs that they know and love.

“Provided redundancies are voluntary, that sweetens the pill; but I can’t see all of them being voluntary.”

Councillor Southerd insisted any job losses would affect services, adding: “The fewer people there are made answerable there has to be an effect on services at some time.”

Tory council leader Bob Wheeler said it was the authority’s job to provide services as efficiently as possible, regardless of the financial climate and council tax.

He said: “It’s well known we are looking at efficiency savings.

“Given that such a high proportion of the council’s costs are related to people, although disappointing it would not be surprising if that meant reductions in staff.

“The ball is in the chief executive’s court and I’m sure he’s look at all the options.

“We have had limited discussions and I don’t think we should discuss every option until there’s a firm proposal.”

Councillor Wheeler said the authority had undergone several restructures without making any compulsory redundancies, adding: “We aim that should continue.”

He also said the council and its private sector partner, Northgate, had increased the authority’s staffing level.

The Tories have previously said the staff total had increased by 20.

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