700 council jobs at risk in effort to save £62m

MORE than 700 jobs could go at a Scottish council aiming to save £62.4million over the next three years.

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North Lanarkshire Council have laid out their spending plans as members set the budget for 2013/14.

The council said around 744 posts would be cut over the next three years - but that compulsory redundancies were a "last resort".

Councillor Bob Burrows, the convener of finance and customer services, said: "While we cannot guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of our decisions, we believe that the vast majority of staffing reductions will be achieved through the deletion of vacant posts, voluntary redundancy, early retirement and redeployment.

"In reducing the establishment by 750 full-time equivalent posts over the last two years, only three were compulsory.

"For those three, the people involved were offered alternative employment but declined that offer."

The council also agreed to spend £100m on building new schools and invest £3.4m in the its Youth Investment Programme, which aims to support 5000 people into work.

Members also agreed to invest £3m into dealing with the effects of the UK Government's welfare reform programme.

Following a consultation across the area last year on £104.75m of options for cuts, the council agreed to a three-year savings package, taking 58% of the options.

The council rejected the closure of two residential care homes, breakfast clubs in schools and the ending of lunchtime school crossing patrols.

The rent levels for 2013 were set with a below-inflation 1.5% increase and more than £37m was allocated to improve current housing stock

It was also agreed that council tax would be frozen and teacher numbers maintained for two years.

Council leader Jim McCabe said: "It is a responsible budget which meets the needs of the people of North Lanarkshie.

"We have been able to protect frontline services and, even in the face of the biggest storm facing the public finances in history, we have been able to invest where money is needed most.

"The cuts passed on to us by the Scottish Government are horrendous and the UK Government's welfare reforms have a significant impact.

"But in deciding on which options to take we have been able to avoid substantial cuts to frontline services which affect the most vulnerable people in our communities.

"And we have listened to the people of North Lanarkshire throughout this process. They told us that they did not want to see cuts which had an impact on vulnerable people."

Mr Burrows called the cuts "painful".

He said: "We have scrutinised every single option for savings and challenged every assumption made over more than a hundred hours of meetings.

"The result of that scrutiny is that we have been able to come to a responsible budget which balances our residents' need for vital services with a focus on investment where we can.

"Yes, this budget delivers cuts and these cuts are painful but we have taken responsibility and delivered a prudent budget which ensures we are able to continue to deliver excellent services."

rachel.loxton@eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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