Published: 10/02/2017 09:35 - Updated: 10/02/2017 09:38

Only 25 council employees likely to be granted voluntary redundancy

Highland Council cuts will be finalised on Thursday.
Highland Council cuts will be finalised on Thursday.

JUST 26 council employees will be granted voluntary redundancy from Highland Council despite more than 300 people applying.

And compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out as the Northern Times reveals the £20 million cuts the local authority hopes to vote through on Thursday , although leading councillors say job losses have been minimised.

Services including street cleaning, grass cutting, employability support and deprived area funding will see swingeing cuts, causing a loss of 122 full-time equivalent jobs.

Despite this, the council is only expected to agree to 26 requests for its employee early release scheme, despite receiving 326 applications in a month.

When it was unveiled last year the voluntary redundancy scheme was touted as a way to free up posts so that those losing their jobs through cuts could be re-deployed into new roles.

This has now left almost 100 jobs unaccounted for but finance director Derek Yule said many of these posts are already vacant and won’t require redundancies. Almost 200 employees were told to prepare for the worst at the end of last year.

"Of the posts affected by the administration’s final savings proposals a significant number are already vacant," he said.

"Many relating to savings approved in prior years have already been deleted with the savings reflected in 2017/18.

"Union officials were briefed in December that budget saving proposals led to initial estimates of staff at risk totalling 200.

"All staff at risk were informed of their status by senior managers on December 8."

Despite this, only eight employees remain hanging in the balance and it is hoped they can be re-deployed to other roles.

Budget leader Bill Fernie said this has been a result of receiving an eleventh hour boost of £6 million from the Scottish Government and an additional £5 million which will be raised through a council tax rise.

"There were people who applied that we can’t afford to lose but that was always going to happen," he said.

"There are some roles that because of geography or what the jobs entail we will never be able to afford to lose them.

"I would imagine everyone who applied did want to leave for various reasons but we didn’t need to let as many people go as we originally thought."

During last year’s cuts 811 employees applied for voluntary redundancy but only 340 were accepted.

Councillor Fernie is also hoping to avoid compulsory redundancies now and in the future.

"We are working towards finding a solution for the staff left," he said.

"We are hoping to get rid of those problems and it has mainly been because of the extra money that we have been able to do so, it has made a massive difference.

"Public sector cuts are likely to continue for the next few years so as a council we need to focus on forward planning because we don’t want to be in this situation again."

The employee release scheme offered 26 weeks’ salary as compensation for resigning and councillors will be asked to approve the 26 recommended application at the budget meeting on Thursday.

Other cuts will hit services including adult social care, flood alleviation, family support staff, countryside rangers, tourism and early learning.

And councillor Fernie hopes the budget will gain the support of opposition councillors and will be approved without conflict.

"We’re still guessing but we have had an indication that some councillors will support us.

"We have had an open door policy when setting this budget and that has helped as we have been able to incorporate some of what other parties have asked for."

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