700 council posts 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 has laid out its 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.

"We have been able to avoid substantial cuts to frontline services which affect the most vulnerable people in our communities."

Mr Burrows called the cuts "painful".

He said: "We have scrutinised every single option for savings and challenged every assumption.

"Yes, this budget delivers cuts and these cuts are painful but we have taken responsibility and delivered a prudent budget."

Learning and leisure ser-vices will account for most of the savings. Cuts of £42million have been agreed with the loss of 21 assistant janitors at each of North Lanarkshire's secondary schools.

School meal prices are to rise and the menu will be reduced.

Management posts at secondary schools are also to be cut while a new management system involving clusters of up to 10 primaries is to be introduced.

Almost £1m in cash aid to Strathclyde Police is to be axed while the local authority's corporate communications and marketing department is being downsized as part of plans to trim £415,000 over the next three years.

rachel.loxton@eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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