STRIKES by council workers may have been averted after Sefton council scaled down proposals to slash £6m from wage bills.
Industrial action may be called off after the council revealed plans to seek £3m of savings after “hard-fought” negotiations with unions.
But funding for Christmas lights and trees could be axed while controversial pitch rental and burial fee rises face the green light as Sefton council reveals its latest proposals to slash £50.8m from its budget.
Unions were expected to ballot workers over plans to renegotiate council staff contracts. With the threat of borough-wide strikes looming, council officers have sought to compromise with unions by reducing the savings target.
This saving is expected to come from a two-year pay freeze and shutting down non-essential council services for four days over Christmas. It is not yet known whether unions will still ballot members.
The news comes as Sefton council’s cabinet prepares to discuss new money-saving options this Thursday.
Among ideas put forward by council officers, many of which would not come into effect until 2014/15 if agreed upon, are plans to:
Raise council tax by 1.9% for 2014/15
Save £100,000 by inviting tenders to compete for management of the Southport Theatre
Save £30,000 by withdrawing support for Christmas decorations
Cabinet is also recommended to agree to cuts to burial services and pitch fee rental for adult sports players after both measures were delayed for further consultation.
The options under consideration for either implementation, consideration or consultation amount to just over £35m of savings. If cabinet agrees to pass the cuts they will then be discussed at the crucial full council budget meeting on February 28.
In better news delays to parking rises and the axing of plans to make junior sports users pay for facilities are due to be confirmed. Plans to cut school crossing services have also been abandoned for the next two years.
In the budget report councillors are warned: “It must be stressed that reductions of the level required by government cannot be achieved in a risk free environment. There will be significant risk associated with the budget options, which will be mitigated where possible.
“It must be recognised that it is no longer possible to mitigate all aspects of risk. In those circumstances steps will be taken to ensure they are identified and managed within the limited resources available.”
Leader of the council Peter Dowd re-iterated the severity of the cuts, revealing the extra funding cuts announced other Christmas had reduced room to manoeuvre over sports fees and burial costs.
Referring to discussions with trade unions he said: "These things are difficult to deal with. Staff won't have had a rise in something like three years and of course there's been other things.
“It was difficult but not just difficult negotiations, difficult decisions to make."
Cllr Dowd thanked participants of cuts consultations for being "realistic" and urged people to continue to provide “constructive” feedback.
For an in-depth look at how the cuts will affect you see Thursday’s Visiter