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'Half' of councils have cut jobs

26 February 09 14:23 GMT

Half of England's councils have cut jobs in the wake of the recession, according to estimates from the Local Government Association.

The LGA said half of the 130 authorities it spoke to had made lay-offs, blaming the economy and the need to keep council tax rises down.

Seven in every 10 expected to make further redundancies, it added.

Communities minister John Healey said councils should not cut jobs as an easy option, but residents must come first.

Increased demand

BBC local government correspondent John Andrew said he understood that some 10,000 redundancies had already been made by town halls, and the figure was likely to rise sharply.

A regional breakdown shows the south west, south east and West Midlands have been the worst-affected areas.

Many of the cuts have come from back office staff, the LGA said, with authorities trying to keep the number of redundancies in front-line services as low as possible.

Councils blame the cuts on the effects of the recession, with a sharp drop in income from everything from land searches to car parks.

Increased demand for services like debt advice have also played a role, they say.

But Mr Healey, for the government, said: "Councils have tough choices to make at the moment, but they have got to be on the side of families who are feeling the pinch.

"The government is giving councils a total 4.2% increase in funding next year, with more freedom to manage the pressures they face.

"They have a responsibility to keep council tax low for their residents and deliver the services that people are relying on at this difficult time. That often means delivering new services and delivering services more efficiently.

"In many of the cases the LGA reports it will be empty posts that are cut rather than people losing their jobs, and I don't want to see councils simply cutting jobs as the easy option for cutting costs. In the current economic climate, such decisions cannot be taken lightly, but ultimately councils must put their residents first."

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