The cold economic winds continue to blow long and hard through town halls, nearly 18 months after the coalition’s new chancellor told local government leaders that their sector would be his shock troops in cutting the budget deficit.
More from: Loss of staff accelerates
The 28% front-loaded cuts in government funding prompted claims and counter-claims as to the likely effects on councils’ total workforce. The LGA reckoned that 140,000 jobs would go by about now; communities minister Eric Pickles scoffed at this so-called ‘fag packet’ calculation.
Ruth Keeling’s analysis across these pages, based on data collated from Freedom of Information requests by Unison, strongly indicates that the LGA’s estimate was a fair one, although, as she explains on page 12, that conclusion is not definitive.
What is clear, though, is that councils have been making huge efforts to protect their staff as far as possible. Although the absolute numbers have risen, compulsory redundancies have shrunk as a percentage of the workforce exodus.
Voluntary redundancies accounted for about 40% of jobs lost in 2010-11, having been around a third the year before. But as the redundancies soar, it has proved harder to lose posts through ‘softer’ options such as early retirement. In general, council services are as good as the people delivering those services, and councils should be praised for doing what they have done to ease the pain.
But this is now. As cuts bite deeper in the coming years - at least until 2015 - there will be much less scope to repeat that approach.
Robin Latchem, deputy editor (practice); email@example.com