Page last updated at 07:04 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Fears over a third of council jobs in Wales

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About a quarter of workers in Wales are in the public sector

A warning has been sounded that almost one in three council jobs in Wales may be cut in the next few years.

With about one in four workers in Wales in the public sector, there are fears the financial crisis could hit harder.

One leading expert in local authority finance said the "worst case scenario" could lead to a reduction in jobs of between 15 - 30% as budgets fall.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has described this as the most difficult financial period in 50 years.

BBC Wales has contacted all 22 Welsh county and borough councils.

Some, like Neath Port Talbot, said no compulsory redundancies were planned, but 750 posts will need to go over the next four years.

Lynn Hine
With 80% of local authority spend being on average workforce spend, then there's some inevitability that with a deficit of 25 - 30% you are going to have to look at your workforce
Lynn Hine, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

The WLGA has already forecast that 2,000 to 4,000 council jobs could go, with some over three to four years.

Lynn Hine of accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers said: "With 80% of local authority spend being on average workforce spend, then there's some inevitability that with a deficit of 25 - 30% you are going to have to look at your workforce and how you utilise that workforce, and indeed the size of that workforce.

"We have done some analysis and we estimate that something in the range of 15 - 30% of workforce levels could be the worst case scenario."

An issue regarded as crucial by observers is the question of how many jobs are posts, and how many are compulsory redundancies.

For example, at Cardiff council, 300 posts are going in the coming year, but 118 are already vacant, so they will not be filled.

The rest will be voluntary and over the next year there will be no compulsory redundancies.

'Double dip'

The public sector union Unison said that every £1 spent by a local authority generates 64p spent locally in communities.

Some believe this contributes to the view that cuts in the public sector could cause a double dip and hold back the general economic recovery.

In Wales, about a quarter of the workforce are in the public sector, which compares with about a fifth in England.

The Welsh Assembly Government's budget for 2010/2011 is £15.7bn, which is £400m less than was expected.

Local authorities in Wales had on average a 2.1% rise, not including inflation, which the WLGA said was the lowest settlement since devolution.

The WLGA's finance spokeman, Rodney Berman, who is also leader of Cardiff council, said the best outcome would be to make efficiency savings that did not become cuts in services.

Local government budgets are also under pressure from deficits in pensions schemes and increasing demand for services.

Dominic Macaskill, Unison's head of the public sector for Wales, said potential cuts were draconian.

He believed they may be used by council leaders as a negotiating tactic to try to get staff to take a pay freeze.

The British Chambers of Commerce said it believed that the public sector needed to share some of the pain experienced by the private sector in the recession.

However, there is concern that cuts in the public sector could end up hurting many companies in the private sector.

The WLGA said capital spending in the public sector was due to halve over the next four years.

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