THOUSANDS of local authority workers are facing a bleak Christmas with union leaders warning of a fresh wave of redundancies set to hit the region’s embattled town halls.
Public sector union Unison is preparing for negotiations with local authority chiefs across the North-East and North Yorkshire after hundreds of council workers were told their jobs were at risk.
The threat of further redundancies comes despite ministers promising the region’s councils a “fair deal” when next year’s local government financial settlement is announced later this month.
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Union leaders said 60 staff at Durham County Council received redundancy notices last week, with 28 positions due to go by April next year. The council needs to make savings of around £180m by 2016/17.
The authority has already made 25 compulsory redundancies during the current financial year, while 116 people applied for voluntary redundancy or early retirement.
A further 800 posts are due to be lost over the next two years, according to the council’s medium term financial plan.
Darlington Borough Council is still to set its new budget - however redundancies were likely before the end of the current financial year, a spokesman said.
Stockton Council said it was still assessing the details of the autumn statement.
However, council leader Coun Bob Cook said: “It is clear that there will be further cuts to local government which will impact on the authority and make the already difficult financial situation even more challenging.
“It is clear that any further reduction to funding will mean we need to look again at the services we provide and further cuts may be necessary. “
North Yorkshire County Council has also warned of redundancies on the way in coming months.
A spokeswoman said: “"We have been restructuring our back office services and holding and deleting vacant posts, so we have lost posts rather than people.
“We are also reviewing our management structures and non-frontline services, but we are not anticipating hundreds of redundancies before the end of the financial year, though undoubtedly there will be a few."
On Tyneside, more than 1,000 jobs are due to go. Gateshead is looking to axe 450 posts in a bid to save £38m over the next two years, while Newcastle will lose 360 positions.
A further 300 jobs are due to go at North Tyneside Council.
Other councils in the region are still calculating their budgets but few have ruled out further redundancies.
Clare Williams, Unison northern regional convenor, said the responsibility for the job losses lay with the Coalition Government.
She added: “We expect redundancies to be in the thousands and we are working hard with the local authorities in the region to minimise the impact on the local authority workers and on the services they provide.
“These job losses are the result of the Coalition Government pursuing an absolutely ridiculous policy of cuts that has been totally discredited - yet they refuse to change course.”
George Osborne announced on Wednesday during his autumn statement that local authorities would be hit with a two per cent budget cut in 2014 - but would escape a one per cent cut faced next year by government departments.
Councils will be told of their precise financial settlement later this month.
The Association of North East Councils last month lobbied ministers for a fairer deal from the settlement amid criticism that local authorities in the region were losing out to richer town halls in the south of the country.
The Department for Communities and Local Government told the Northern Echo that the settlement would be fair, with ministers ensuring that the formula grant funding per head was higher in those parts of the country with the highest level of need.
A spokesman said: “Councils still account for a quarter of all public spending - £114bn of taxpayers’ money - so they must help act to reduce the inherited deficit.
"The Chancellor has exempted councils from the reductions Government must make in 2013/14. This will give councils time to find sensible savings by transforming front-line service delivery as well as reducing fraud, procuring better and sharing back offices.”