TAXPAYERS have been hit with a £13m bill as Kirklees Council begins reducing its workforce – with millions more to pay out.
The council forked out the huge sum in redundancy and pension payments to just 240 workers – less than a sixth of the 1,500 staff who Kirklees plans to lose in the next five years.
But the council’s finance director Adrian Lythgo said yesterday that the taxpayer would claw back the £13m within two years through a reduced wage bill.
The top Kirklees official also gave details of up to £8m of cuts which the Government is demanding are made in the next nine months.
The council aims to cut its non-school workforce from 11,200 to 9,700 to deal with the public spending squeeze. Kirklees made its first job cuts in February and March this year when 240 staff took voluntary redundancy.
Most of the workers were in their 50s and also took voluntary early retirement, entitling them to early access to their pensions.
Kirklees forked out around £2.5m in redundancy payments to these workers – about £10,000 each.
The council also paid about £10.5m to West Yorkshire Pension Fund to allow the staff made redundant to get access to their pensions.
But Mr Lythgo said yesterday that the council would make the money back in around 20 months.
He said: “We will get that money back in 1.7 years because those people no longer work for the council so we’re saving on salaries. It’s an ‘up-front’ payment to achieve savings later.”
Kirklees will continue to look for volunteers for redundancy.
Mr Lythgo said: “The people who left this year will be by far the most expensive group of workers. We expect the next round of redundancies to pay for themselves within one year.”
Mr Lythgo also outlined new cuts to the council’s budget because of central Government’s determination to reduce spending in 2010/11.
Kirklees had planned to cut its £1.1bn annual spending by £18m in 2011/12 and another £30m the following year.
But now the council must find another £8m of savings this financial year. Full details will be revealed when chancellor George Osborne announces his emergency Budget on Tuesday.
But Mr Lythgo already has a fair idea where the axe will fall.
He said: “The transport and highways budget will have to be cut by £2m, and it might be more than that.
“Day-to-day repairs of roads have to carry on so the cuts will be in structural repairs – things like resurfacing and street lighting.”
Mr Lythgo added that education funding would be cut – but this would not affect spending on school staff like teachers, teaching assistants and dinner ladies.
“There will be at least £2m cut from our education budget,” he said.
“However, this does not mean direct funding to schools, it means a cut in our support services to schools.”
Mr Lythgo added that the cuts would hit service delivery.
He said: “We will do as much as we can to make sure frontline services aren’t affected but there will be some impact.”