BARNSLEY Council bosses have not ruled out a further raft of redundancies due to ‘unprecedented challenges’ – having revealed £13m in cost pressures in its budget for the next financial year.
Coun Alan Gardiner, cabinet spokesperson for core services, praised financial officers’ work in balancing the books but admitted ‘no guarantees’ can be placed on job security.
It comes just weeks after the Chronicle revealed the local authority spent almost £997,244 in redundancy fees as it laid off 29 people last year.
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures show 29 people were laid off by Barnsley Council in 2021/22 at an average of £34,388 per person.
It meant the council paid a total of £997,244 in exit packages last year – down from £1,513,671 in 2020-21.
This was also below the £2,419,692 paid out in 2019/20, before the coronavirus pandemic, and much lower than £5.6m in 2014/15 when 322 employees were axed.
“The forecast of cost pressures is £13m in the current financial year,” Coun Gardiner said.
“We have money set aside to to mitigate the anticipated impacts.
“I’m afraid we’re not in a world that can give guarantees at moment, with the trauma in the global markets, in the local markets.
“We do our best to protect our staff and the jobs of our staff, but to make a guarantee would be rather foolhardy in the present circumstances.
“The council will balance the budget for this financial year – a lot of surrounding local authorities are not in that fortunate position.
“That’s due to the intense work by the finance department to foresee the problems and mitigate them to the nth degree.”
The Local Government Association said councils across the country – including Barnsley – have been forced to reduce their workforces due to budget cuts, despite ‘dramatic’ increases in the volume of services provided.
According to the LGA, without funding from the government to meet the pressure, more redundancies are likely.
Coun Gardiner added: “We regularly review our staffing structure to make sure we have the right level of staffing with the required skill set to deliver our services.
“We try to protect the delivery of essential frontline services while also making sure we are getting value for money for each of our services.
“As a local authority, we are under challenging financial pressures, but we try to limit the number of compulsory redundancies where possible.
“Our total redundancies have decreased year-on-year over the past four years.
“Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, the figures include those exiting on voluntary redundancy.
“Redundancy entitlements are determined by staff salary and time of service, while pension costs are a key factor in exit payments for those aged 55 and over.
“We adhere to current legislation and our policies, working with the relevant trade unions in the case of redundancies.”