MORE staff are to be offered unpaid holiday and work from home as council bosses continue to seek savings.

Proposals looking at how savings on fuel can be made are also in the pipeline – Worcestershire County Council spends about £3 million a year on fuel to cover the 81.5 million miles that staff cover.

We previously reported in your Worcester News that chiefs are looking to make £22.2 million savings for the start of the next financial year as they set out on a mission to reduce the council’s budget by between £60 million and £70 million by 2015, which is likely to cost more than 1,000 jobs.

Employing new staff on 35-hour contracts instead of 37.5 hours is estimated to save about £477,000 over the next four years, allowing current staff to reduce their hours will save £80,000, while more staff taking unpaid leave could save £100,000.

At a meeting of the resources overview and scrutiny panel, Patrick Birch, director of financial services, said the initiative will be promoted more vigorously from now on.

Mr Birch said: “People might want to go to Australia for six weeks, or want another three weeks’ holiday this year, and if that works for the business then clearly we pay three weeks’ less salary.

“Other people have term-time only contracts. In some jobs that works for businesses and for individuals.

“We have the opportunity to say ‘sorry, it can’t be done,’ but in some cases it really works for us and saves the business cash.”

With the council hoping to save about £800,000 by closing offices and through reduced maintenance and repair costs over the next four years, Mr Birch said he expected more people to work from home – 20 per cent of staff in his directorate already do.

However, Councillor Bob Bullock said: “It weakens management in my view.”

Mr Birch conceded there is a risk attached to flexible and mobile working, but thought it helped managers keep a closer eye on how much work staff have done in a day and it often increased productivity.

Mr Birch, who handed responsibility for the council’s assets over to planning, economy and performance director Diane Tilley at the beginning of December, said there are about 220 non-school buildings at the council’s disposal.

He said he was confident “we can reduce that quite significantly” by delivering more services, such as libraries and youth initiatives, from one building.

“My instinct is that we are just on the cusp of making some real progress on this,” he said.

Meanwhile, leader of the council Adrian Hardman said there is also scope to lend money to other councils, but he is wary of stepping up involvement in the money markets at this stage.

• Your Worcester News was the only member of the media to attend this meeting.