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Bexley council reveals that 280 jobs face the axe among a long list of cuts

PUBLISHED: 17:17 27 October 2010

Teresa O'Neill

Teresa O'Neill

Archant

Nearly 300 jobs could be axed and more council services are to be merged with neighbouring boroughs as bosses look to save £1 million a month following the biggest spending cuts since World War Two.

Bexley Council Offices

Delivering the Comprehensive Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne announced massive cuts of 27 per cent to local authorities budgets over the next four years and handed local councils more control over how they spend their money.

Leader of Bexley council Teresa O’Neill this week unveiled the raft of proposed council cuts, including proposals to axe 280 jobs and reduce transport for children with special needs.

The council also revealed the head of finance had been in regular meetings with his Bromley counterpart over where the two boroughs can save cash by working together.

The draft cuts, which will have to be approved by councillors after a public consultation, include slashing £4,294,000 from the learning disability service, and encouraging pupils with Special Education Needs to travel independently, which is predicted to save another £750,000.

Teresa O'Neill with Mike Ellsmore

Leader of the opposition on Bexley council and its former leader, Chris Ball said: “Reducing staff is inevitable but it will affect frontline staff more than management. This will have an affect on services, whereby people will have to wait longer, the service will be abolished or it will just get worse.

“We have had a review of Special Education Needs transport before in 2005, when Labour was in power and saved about £750,000. We made the service more efficient so the work has already been done. Children who got transport to school were not denied it after the review. We just came up with a better way of doing it by cutting down on the amount of different firms we used for example.

“However, now children will be denied the service. With the scale of the cuts absolutely everything needs to be looked at but as a civilised society you put the care and safety of the vulnerable at the top.”

Private medical insurance for managers is to be abolished, which will affect approximately 40 employees and out of the 280 posts to be abolished over three years.Proposals include axing two posts from the management board, and five deputy directors.

Maximising the use of buildings has been proposed, such as using children’s centres for other services outside of current opening times and having pop-in parlours in libraries.

Charges for council services are set to rise, which could include registrar service, the cost of cemeteries and bulky waste collection. Administration the council carries out for other organisations, such as Bexley Care Trust, also look set to rise. More services are set to be online, which would mean they are available 24 hours a day.

Mrs O’Neill denied being frustrated by her inability to raise council tax to compensate for their cut in government funding, after the coalition provided incentives to all councils to keep hikes at bay.

When asked why they were not making savings in their graffiti cleaning service, tree planting or locking parks at night, but were looking to cut transport for children with special needs, she said: “We think our residents would like a nice clean borough. That is our educated guess.

“We want to give them more independence. Could they be going on a bus with someone else? We have to talk to parents and schools. We don’t want them to be at risk. “

Extra income from allowing mobile phone masts on council buildings was also ruled out.

Mr Ball added: “It looks good if the say they are going to keep graffiti teams but the levels have been going down for a long time so it is cheap to keep it. Do you want the walls clean or do you want your kids to get to school safely?”

Bexley finance director Mike Ellsmore has been meeting with his counterpart at Bromley council to see which services they can put out to tender together in a bid to get a better deal.

Bexley has already merged its Registrar Service with Kent Council, where the latter will run the service as Bexley bosses deemed the other’s service to be more ‘sophisticated’. However Bexley councillors will still have their say on how the service is run. Bexley council has also merged its transport with Bromley.

Mrs O’Neill, who assured residents there will be consultation into the cuts, added: “This is calm and considered and makes sure that residents have an input.

“All our staff have been involved in this, whilst also doing their day jobs. There have been no consultants.

“These are ideas but the scale is real and if people say ‘don’t take that out’ then it has to come out of a different place.”

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