Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Councils 'to make 700 job cuts'

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Councils face making hundreds of job cuts in the coming months

At least 700 local government jobs will be lost in Wales in 2009 and up to 2,000 by 2011 due to the recession, according to a survey of councils.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said 11 councils were expecting to make jobs cuts in 2009-10.

Its survey found councils in south-east Wales were expecting to make 300 job cuts while those in south-west Wales were planning to make more than 200.

WLGA leader John Davies said times were "extraordinarily tough" for councils.

The body, which represents Wales' 22 local authorities, said the economic slowdown meant every council in Wales expected to overspend on its 2008-09 budget, with additional demands on services such as welfare advice and housing benefit applications.

It said councils expected their overall income to fall short by nearly £35m during 2009-10 as a result of loss of interest, interest cuts and the impact of economic slowdown.

The recession has exacerbated local government pressures at a time when councils are already struggling through insufficient budget settlements
John Davies, WLGA

Almost half of councils have reduced staff numbers by seeking voluntary redundancies or introducing a full or partial recruitment freeze.

Others were conducting reviews to ensure that filling a vacant post was essential, it said.

Mr Davies, a Pembrokeshire councillor, said: "We are all in the situation where our income is falling, yet our expenditure is increasing.

"Over the last year we have already seen a significant downsizing of local government services and staff levels as a result of insufficient funding for local government.

Asset sales

"The recession has exacerbated local government pressures at a time when councils are already struggling through insufficient budget settlements."

He said the survey of all 22 councils in Wales showed "what local government has been saying for many years - there is only so much that been squeezed out of an already pressurised system before something gives".

He said the recession had added to existing pressures on council incomes, with 20 local authorities reporting a reduction in the number of planning applications being made.

Asset sales were also falling through a fall in land value and developers' lack of confidence in the current market while councils' balances were being hit by interest rate cuts.

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