WORCESTER City Council is cutting seven per cent of the workforce and wants to hand over rubbish collections, leisure centres and museum services to new providers in a drastic attempt to save cash.
A total of 26 posts will be axed over the next two years as part of a plan to save £1.2 million by 2015, with the council refusing to rule out compulsory job losses.
It also says it will freeze its portion of the council tax for residents next year – offering Christmas cheer to hard-pressed taxpayers.
The move was outlined yesterday by the Conservative leadership, which admitted the cuts will be “a painful process”.
Council chiefs are forecasting a budget shortfall of up to £2.5 million by 2017/18 due to reduced government funding, shortfalls in income and the general poor economy.
In order to plug some of that gap they want to “commission” some services – a buzzword for handing them to external providers such as the private sector, voluntary groups or other bodies.
They have now identified four areas which form part of an initial wish list of areas they want to hive off including waste pick-ups, leisure centres, museum services and the revenues and benefits team.
Alongside bin collections, grounds maintenance will also be examined to see if it can be handed over.
All four areas make up £5 million of the £23 million the city council spends each year, meaning big savings can be made by handing them over.
The council says any savings from it will not kick in until around 2015/16 onwards, which means they must take action before then to plug some of the budget gap.
So the equivalent of 26 full-time job losses have been factored in during 2013/14 and 2014/15, which could come from any areas of the council.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the city council, said: “This is not a painless process – it will require some pain.
"We want to provide the best possible value for taxpayers’ pounds and believe commissioning will help us do that. We cannot carry on providing services the way we do now.”
Councillor Andy Roberts, cabinet member for finance, said: “We believe we can make relatively large savings to the budget this way.”
The cuts will be discussed by the Conservative cabinet on Tuesday and have been sent out for public consultation.
The budget will then needed to be voted on by full council in February and, if approved, senior staff will develop proposals for handing services over.
Worcester City Council spends about £23 million on services each year, with around £5 million alone on bin collections and grounds maintenance, museums, sports centres, and revenues and benefits.
Bosses say the four form part of an “initial list” which they want to hand over – all other services will eventually be examined to see if they can form part of the process.
Commissioning a service means it could be taken over by any external provider – including the private sector, voluntary groups, new bodies, not-for-profit organisations or even other councils.
The two leisure facilities the council still runs, St John’s Sports Centre and Nunnery Wood Sports Complex, will be part of the commissioning process but not centres in Perdiswell and Sansome Walk as those are already managed privately.
The city council is awaiting an announcement on Government funding for 2013/14 which is due on Wednesday December 19.
The draft budget includes £690,000 of cuts next year, rising to £1.2 million in 2014/15 – the bulk of which will come from scrapping 26 posts and efficiency savings.
It then aims to increase the spending reductions to a total of £2.5 million by 2017/18, based on assumptions the Government will slash its grant funding by 20 per cent over that period.
Because it does not yet know how much Government cash it will get during this timescale, the figures are subject to revision as the years roll by.