DISBELIEF and worry has greeted the news that a North-East council could lose more than half its workforce as Government cuts bite.

Independent Mayor of Middlesbrough, Ray Mallon has said the "best case scenario" was more than 1,000 jobs will go at Middlesbrough Council.

Some reports put the figure at 1,500 jobs to be cut from just 2,500-remaining staff by March, 2018.

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At a meeting on Wednesday night Mr Mallon explained that next year’s budget cuts had doubled from £11m to £22m at a time when costs are rising because more children were going into care and the authority was looking after more elderly people.

The council, which has had its grants from Government slashed, must make savings of more than £67m over the next three years.

The council has already shed about 600 jobs since 2010 and Mike Hill, regional organiser at Unison in the Middlesbrough, said the proposed level of cuts were “unsustainable”.

He said: “They would have to rationalise at the top, people on good money, but with that level of cuts, a lot of staff would be lost at the bottom.

"The biggest workforce at the council is adult services, so that’s care workers calling in to help elderly people in their homes. In other words a lot of low-paid women would lose their jobs.

“People are worried sick. They are facing the future prospect of being unemployed in a place called Middlesbrough - one of the hardest hit towns in the UK where unemployment is massive. We will be doing all we can to help make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald, said: “These figures are devastating but I would urge caution. It’s going a long way into the future and I want clarification. I

"f this was to happen to tomorrow it would be utterly and completely catastrophic but I think this story has run away with itself.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, contradicted an assertion made by Ray Mallon that the cuts would be the same under a Labour government, saying the current Government had changed the funding formula to the benefit of richer councils in the south.