Union ‘horrified’ at Sheffield council jobs threat

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Up to 72 jobs are at risk in social services in Sheffield as officials try to reduce a predicted £7 million overspend.

Sheffield Council’s adult social services department is trying to fill a hole in its budget after the financial problems at its learning disabilities unit.

Josie Bennett, who heads the unit, has been suspended pending an investigation.

Trade union Unison said it is ‘disappointed and horrified’ by the potential redundancies.

But Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for adult services, said the overspend has simply brought forward a review of posts which would have been inevitable anyway due to Government budget cuts.

The council has to cut spending by £108 million in the next five years.

A Unison spokesman said: “We wish to raise our disappointment and horror at what services are now facing due to the overspend in learning disabilities.

“Unison was told, in a meeting with senior officers, the overspend wouldn’t cost employees their jobs.

“However, adult services, along with all other areas of the council’s communities portfolio, have been tasked to come forward with ways money can be saved.

“Adult services provided three options, differing in the numbers of posts to be culled, the biggest number of the three being 72 – mainly low-paid female workers.

“We aren’t naïve and know more posts will be lost throughout the council, due partly to budget cuts, but also due to poor management of a situation.

“How can Ms Bennett be suspended and nobody else in the council be accountable for such poor management?”

Coun Andrew Sangar, opposition Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, added: “Low-paid staff shouldn’t paying for the failures of politicians and senior managers.

“Instead Labour finance bosses need to ask themselves some serious questions as to how they allowed this budget to spin out of control.”

However, the council said it has no choice but to save money from the service budget to make up for the overspend.

Coun Lea said: “We have to restructure things. There is an overcapacity in the service and we have to make some savings.

“We are inviting staff to take early retirement or voluntary severance.”