September 23 2014 Latest news:
Friday, September 28, 2012
THE battle to tackle a £10m gap in the borough council’s finances is beginning, as around 55 workers have volunteered for redundancy.
A total of 422 people work for the council directly, and many more are employed through contractors such as GYB Services - including bin men and street cleaners.
And they are facing an uncertain future as the authority must cut £3.2m for each of the next three years.
No target has been set for the voluntary redundancy drive, but if too few step forward staff will face compulsory redundancy.
Leader Trevor Wainwright said cuts have been forced upon them by a reduction in central government funding - specifically the expiry of the coalition’s Transition Fund.
And unions have called for a “fight back” against “unfair” central government funding.
Brian Lynch, regional co-ordinator for Unison, said: “It’s a hell of a challenge and I think what councils should be doing is grouping together and seeing how they can resist the unfair funding coming from central government.
“Don’t just sit there and accept your lot - fight back.
“Unison will work with the council in trying to find ways to address this as a large number of jobs are at stake here as well as the citizens of Great Yarmouth.”
Mr Wainwright said officers are doing all they can to avoid compulsory redundancies, and are “looking at every line of the budget” to reduce costs without affecting frontline services.
Staff who accept a severance package are being offered “enhanced terms”.
A restructure is planned, and bosses are seeking to renegotiate the annual £7.2m contract with GYB Services.
Other ideas mooted include “income generation” by hiring out the town hall for weddings, funerals, functions and conferences.
And the authority is in talks with three bordering councils - Waveney, North Norfolk and Norwich City - over sharing services such as building regulations and conservation.
Mr Wainwright stressed that the aborted management merger with Breckland and South Holland councils would only have saved £160,000 per year, and that “the restructure is where the biggest saving will be”.
As reported, the proposed merger was backed by the Tories but dropped when Labour won control of the borough council in May.
Mr Wainwright said: “We always said we wouldn’t look to work with councils 100 miles down the road, but we would look at people we’ve got borders with.”
He said Waveney and Yarmouth both have a growing energy sector, and have the tourist industry in common with North Norfolk.
Brian Walker, cabinet member for resources, added: “The tie up with Breckland and South Holland was only going to deliver £160,000 of savings and that in no way compensated for the power we would give up to 90 miles away.
“For those savings it just wasn’t worth it.”
Ron Hanton, leader of the opposition, said the Tories left finances in a good state when they left office - with £5m in reserves.
He added: “Everybody on the council was aware of the forthcoming shortfall despite the surprise there appears to be. “Now I understand they have been knocking on the doors of Broadland, Waveney, North Norfolk and King’s Lynn councils.”
Mr Wainwright stressed there has been no dialogue with Broadland or King’s Lynn councils, and that the reserve cash will not significantly lessen the problem in hand.
He explained at least £2m will need to stay in reserves “in this climate” in case of unforeseen circumstances.
And much of the remaining cash would be used to pay severance pay before the savings “start kicking in”.
He said staff are being offered “enhanced terms” and the voluntary redundancy process is being done as “fairly” as possible.
He added the 55 staff who have volunteered for redundancy have been a spread of roles “from top to bottom”.
“Whoever got control in May would have had to do this,” he stressed.
The authority’s budget of £16m for 2012-13 was approved at a full council meeting on Tuesday.