Some 1,800 jobs are to be cut at Cumbria County Council in the next three years, as the town hall approves ‘drastic steps’ to save £84m.
Demonstrators staged a ‘noisy’ protest outside Kendal town hall as a full council meeting agreed on measures that will roughly halve the size of the town hall by 2018.
The budget for 2015/16 also included a 1.99% council tax rise, the first time an increase has been approved in five years.
Once the Government removes its revenue support grant for Cumbria in April, the town hall’s main source of income will come from council tax, business rates, fees and charges.
Cllr Patricia Bell, Cumbria County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for resources, said: ‘This budget is the most drastic step yet in reducing the size of the organisation, and cutting the back office. Around 80% of the new savings we've identified this year are internal, with only 20% outfacing.
‘Around 1,800 council jobs are expected to be lost over the next three years and by 2018 the council will be roughly half the size it was at the start of the decade and this means that we need to work differently, delivering services in new ways, reducing demand for services and getting things right first time. We are reshaping our budgets so they are more locally focused.’
'As regards council tax we simply can’t go on freezing this if we want to continue delivering services to the people of Cumbria, who rely of our services. Accepting a further council tax freeze grant would mean having to make far more savage cuts in services than outlined in this plan.’
Trade union Unison’s North West regional organiser, Dave Armstrong, said: ‘This level of cut cannot be made without seriously damaging our local economy and social fabric. The Government is starving local authorities of adequate resources and jeopardising the future of our communities.’
Unison Cumbria’s branch secretary, Anita Timperon, added: ‘Many council employees are women in low paid jobs, working on a part-time basis. Some will be forced into the benefits system if they lose their job. There will be repercussions throughout the Cumbrian economy as employees and their families have their livelihood taken away from them.’