CHESHIRE West and Chester Council is considering cutting 'around 180' jobs as it battles against financial challenges in the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents across Northwich and Winsford are currently being asked to have their say on plans for next year’s budget.

It comes as the local authority is facing a budget black hole of between £34 million and £43 million, depending on what national funding becomes available.

Cllr Carol Gahan, cabinet member for legal and finance, says the council needs to plan for around 180 job losses in case no extra cash becomes available from central Government.

She said: “We have managed our financial position carefully, but we are facing a future funding gap that impacts on how services are provided.

Winsford Guardian:

“There is considerable uncertainty on this position as Government has not yet set out the funding for local government, so we are unclear on the money they will make available to the council.

“We also face ongoing budget pressures resulting from the pandemic. Overall, we could face a major financial shortfall over the next four years.”

Cllr Gahan says the council would plan to cut the jobs through voluntary means and halting recruitment to some vacancies, while there would be ‘close consultation’ with staff affected.

The Guardian understands that staff have received an email about possible job cuts at the council.

“We will have to make some very difficult decisions about significant savings and efficiencies to make sure we can continue to support those with the most complex needs and to deliver our residents’ priorities,” added Cllr Gahan.

“We will do everything we can to innovate and reduce the impact on residents and our staff, but the challenge is significant.”

Earlier this month, CWAC leader Cllr Louise Gittins wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for additional financial support for local government ‘for 2021-22 and beyond’.

She told him that on top of the financial pressures already being faced by the council, there were ‘worrying signs’ that the authority would not rake in the business rates and council tax it needs and previously budgeted for, due to the impact of coronavirus on the community.

Cllr Gittins added that the council’s budget currently includes £9.4 million of ‘temporary funding’ from central Government, which is not guaranteed to continue beyond April 2021.

In the letter, she said: “The council is having to bring forward and consult on contingency plans for substantial cuts in public services, and redundancies of council staff – at the height of a global pandemic where staff and services are already stretched to the limit.

Winsford Guardian:

“Demand for our adult and children’s social care continues to grow and we are faced with having to make significant reductions to other council services in order to fund this increasing financial pressure.

“Local councils are at the heart of dealing with the pandemic and we have accepted significant responsibilities to support the response, including support to businesses, the care market and supporting economic recovery.

“All of these actions have direct cost implications and, whilst we welcome the funding that has been allocated to date, it is not sufficient to cover the overwhelming pressures that we as a council, and as a sector, are facing.”

Unison, the public service union, says it will challenge any job losses at the council.

Teresa Connally, Cheshire West Unison branch secretary, said: “We are concerned about the huge financial cuts that CWAC may have to make over the next four years.

"We call on the Government to increase funding for local councils in order to avoid disastrous cuts to jobs and local services.

“As the public service union, we will challenge any job losses and will do everything to support our members throughout what is shaping up to be an incredibly difficult few years.

“Some council workers will wish to take voluntary redundancy over the next few years but this will be made much more difficult by the Government’s punitive new cap on public sector severance payments.

"At a time when thousands of public sector workers are under threat of losing their jobs, the Government must rethink this cruel and badly designed policy.”

See cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/councilbudget for more information on the budget or call 0300 123 8123 and quote ‘council budget’.