More Council cuts to come

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

THE man tasked with steering Wigan Council through its drastic cuts ordeal today warned of more pain to come.

Paul McKevitt, Wigan Council’s director of public services, believes that austerity measures are bound to continue beyond the four-year time frame set out by the Government.

In an exclusive interview with the Wigan Evening Post, Mr McKevitt said that while the council was ahead of target in terms of making efficiency savings, he envisaged more to come in the future.

The local authority has in the last two years already cut tens of millions of pounds from its budget and shed more than 1,300 members of its workforce.

He said: “While we are ahead of schedule in terms of cuts (by £3m) I can only see more cuts being forced upon the suthorty in the future.

“The Government’s plan to make cuts in the public sector has not worked as well as they hoped and therefore I can only see more cuts beyond 2014.”

The final accounts for last year summarise the council’s financial position and includes the following:

• A surplus of £3m which has been earmarked for investment and has helped fund the apprenticeship scheme;

• The council has reduced its senior management structure, part of which saw the Chief Executive leave the authority through redundancy at an annual saving of £200,000 per annum. This is in addition to other changes to the senior management structure which have saved nearly £1m every year;

• The basic salary package of the chief executive has been reduced by 15 per cent. Although skewed by redundancy payments the number of staff who received over £50,000 reduced to 75 this year from 123 the previous year;

• The number of full time employees has been reduced by more than 1,000 since 2010. In 2011/12 454 members of those staff who left the authority were given an exit package. Of these nearly 90 per cent received an exit package of less than £20,000;

• The council’s balances have reduced to £13.4m compared to the previous year of £20.5m. However this was planned and the money was used to invest in recycling schemes which have helped the authority reduce its spending on waste.

Coun Ged Bretherton, cabinet champion for corporate resources, said: “The statement of accounts reflect the first year of four years of cuts of £66m that the coalition government imposed on Wigan.

“The accounts show that the council is in a healthy position as we move into the second year in which we look to make savings of £25m.”

“We will continue to look at maintaining front line services and make back office savings, where we can, like the senior management review which saved over £1.2m.”