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Swindon council set to cut 50 jobs and end free parking on Sundays

Swindon council set to cut 50 jobs and end free parking on Sundays

At least fifty jobs are set to go at Swindon Borough Council just so the authority can balance its books next year.

People visiting attractions or the town center on Sundays will also be asked to pay to park in council-owned car parks and council tax payers will be asked for a 4.99 per cent increase – a hike of £76.65 per year for a Band D household, deemed to be the “average” payer.

Officers at Euclid Street have had to find the biggest savings the council has ever had to make in order to bridge a funding gap that was at £38m at the start of December.

100 FTE jobs to go

Now, the Conservative cabinet member for finance Keith Williams says that gap is down to £700,000 – although that still must be filled by the time the budget is set in February, by law – but job cuts will be one of the ways to pay for it.

In the draft budget he will present to his cabinet colleagues next week Coun Williams will say 100 full time equivalent posts will need to go from the council’s headcount of 2,800 staff.

He said: “Of those 100 FTE about 50 are currently vacant so they will not be filled. But there are 50 FTE that are at risk.”

Coun Williams was unwilling to say more about where those posts are in the council structure as legal consultations are beginning.

He said most of the savings have been found in the areas of adult social care and children’s social services – statutory duties that take up 80 per cent of this years’ £156m budget: “The savings will be in areas where most of our residents don ‘t receive or see services.

“We always have to look at ways of providing services more efficiently – perhaps by routing someone’s day so they get to make visits easier, or by doing things so that visits are different, and you only need to make three instead of four. We can use thinks like Alexa technology to remind someone to take their medication rather than make a visit.”

One significant saving in next year’s budget is £2.3m from the placement of children in the council’s care achieved by “reducing the need to take children into care” – by such means as early intervention and working with the child’s family earlier.

Council tax to increase, Sunday parking charges to start

Other ways of bridging the huge spending gap do involve charging people more.

The draft budget will suggest that council taxpayers be asked to pay an increase of 4.99 per cent – ​​the maximum allowed without holding a referendum. That increase is made up of 2.99 per cent for general expenses and two per cent ring-fenced for adult social care purposes.

That will bring the council, according to its chief financial officer Mick Bowden, another £5m.

And free parking in the council’s car parks on Sundays will be another victim of the savings needed, bringing in an anticipated £250,000 over the next financial year, while dimming the council’s new LED streetlights at the quietest times of night will save £600,000.

Mr Bowden said: “Previously we have had to make savings of £30m between 2017 and 2019 and the biggest previous saving we’ve had to make in a year was £21m so this has been very significant.”

The budget will be presented to the Conservative cabinet next Wednesday and then go to full council on Thursday, February 16 before coming into force on April 1.

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