Hundreds take redundancy as Edinburgh Council seeks £148m cuts

Close to 500 people have taken voluntary redundancy from Edinburgh Council. File picture: Scott Louden

Close to 500 people have taken voluntary redundancy from Edinburgh Council. File picture: Scott Louden

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AROUND 500 staff have agreed to leave the city council as part of a major restructure – a quarter of the total needed to hit a cost-cutting target.

Union leaders said the latest figure was a sign the council’s redundancy process is beginning to accelerate, amid a wider drive to find at least 
£148 million in savings over the next four years.

And they stressed the situation for council leaders in Edinburgh and elsewhere had been made significantly worse by Finance Secretary John Swinney’s local government finance settlement.

It has emerged council workers in 438 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts have left or will leave the authority through voluntary redundancy (VR) and early release (VERA) agreements.

Lump sum payments and access to pension contributions will cost the council £18.7m, although nearly £16m will be secured in annual savings.

City bosses also said offer letters had been sent to staff in a further 85 FTE positions.

Union chiefs today described the one-off financial hit as unavoidable.

Tom Connolly, assistant secretary at Unison City of Edinburgh branch, said: “There are packages in place that the council have agreed and that’s the figure available so that people can in some way try and manage their lives through a redundancy situation.

“These are also people have who have given ten, 20 or 30 years’ service to local government. But that’s the consequence of the austerity issue. Fundamentally, we don’t believe anyone should be going. We think the whole thing is negative.

“We’re frustrated in that this has been driven by the austerity agenda and John Swinney’s decision to give a disproportionate cut to local authorities.”

The city council is looking to shed around 2000 posts as part of its savings drive.

Mr Connolly said the number of departures had not led to heightened fears of 
compulsory redundancies.

“We are keeping an eye on it and we have pretty positive relationships with elected members,” he added.

Commenting on a figure showing there have been 1085 VERA declines, mainly because staff involved were viewed as “critical” to the council, Mr Connolly said: “It shows it’s not as simple as just opening the door and telling people to go.”

City leaders today insisted that their restructure and savings programme was proceeding according to plan.

A spokeswoman said: “Approximately 500 staff have agreed to leave under voluntary early release and redundancy arrangements, and we are confident that between the organisational review, natural turnover and the release of temporary staff, we will achieve our savings targets by April 2017.”

Earlier this year, council officials said they were “cautiously optimistic” that 2000 jobs could be cut in 12 months without the need for compulsory redundancies.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com