A trade union has branded the leaders of Aberdeenshire Council “shameful” for refusing to rule out compulsory job losses, as councillors today prepare to approve cuts throughout the authority in order to save almost £40 million.
Yesterday council leader Jim Gifford and deputy leader Peter Argyle told the Press and Journal that any compulsory redundancies in the council’s workforce would come as a “last resort”, but the option was available.
And councillors will today consider a number of savings in order to balance the books for the next financial year.
Officials have laid out cuts to slash £1.57 million from the education and children’s services budget, £915,000 from the infrastructure budget and £1.96 million from business services.
Mr Gifford believes steps taken in previous years have worked successfully to stave off any need for compulsory redundancies and are likely to work again.
But Melanie Greenhalgh, area organiser for the trade union GMB, said nobody should be forcibly made redundant as a result of the cost-saving measures.
She said: “This is shameful of Aberdeenshire Council.
“We have had meetings regarding the budget and they did not mention at all the phrase ‘compulsory redundancy’, only voluntary redundancies, natural wastage and vacant posts not being filled.
“If they think that it’s acceptable to say that to the unions, including the GMB, and then say that compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out, then that is absolutely shocking.
“This does not help members feel safe and secure at work – and what a time to announce it with the ongoing panic about jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will do our utmost to protect our members and protect any compulsory redundancies from taking place for our members who work for Aberdeenshire Council.”
For the upcoming financial year, the authority’s planned income from the Scottish Government settlement is £452.862 million – around £5.7 million more than was originally anticipated following budget discussions in Holyrood.
But major cuts are still required and it is expected that around 65.5 full time positions could go, through a number of different options.
Council leader Jim Gifford said: “There are cuts we will have to make because we don’t have enough money in our settlement from the Scottish Government and unfortunately that will mean some people will lose their jobs.
“We have the options of voluntary redundancies, removing roles which have not been filled in quite some time, and more – but the last resort always remains.
“However we have never had to use it previously because our other approaches have previously worked really well.”