Significance of Durham County Council job cuts underestimated

editorial image

The effect of government austerity on councils has been underestimated because they are not ‘major companies’, it has been claimed.

More than 2,500 jobs have been cut at Durham County Council since 2011, according to a report for the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board.

But one member thinks the effect of the need to slash costs has not been fully appreciated.

“Our jobs have just gone under the wire, bit by bit by bit,” said Coun John Robinson at last Friday’s (April 20) meeting at Durham County Hall.

“If it was a major company all hell would have broken loose.”

According to the report, a total of 2,720 posts have been lost at the council in the last eight years.

More than half of these came through early retirements and voluntary redundancies, but there have also been 570 compulsory redundancies and 704 ‘vacant posts deleted’.

The job cuts have helped slash £211m from budgets since 2011 and the council is expected to save a further £39m by 2020.

However, while orders from Westminster to cut costs have been part of the reason, some positions have also been lost due to the move from a two-tier system of county and district councils to a single unitary authority.

Liberal Democrat leader Coun Amanda Hopgood said: “For any of us [councillors] here pre 2008, the papers then told us we were going to have to lose at least 800 jobs due to the merger of the councils.

“We need to put into context how much is due to austerity and how much is the amalgamation of councils.

“We’re now 10 years on and hopefully we’ve seen the final amalgamation of departments.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service