Hundreds of council jobs are at risk as borough bosses prepare for the next round of austerity cuts.
Letters will be sent out to hundreds of Gateshead Council workers next Thursday as the authority slashes £25m from its budget over the next 12 months.
A specialist home support team could be axed under the proposals, while cleaning services at some council-run buildings are expected to be reduced.
Union leaders say private companies might now be brought in to complete tasks that used to be carried out by in-house staff.
More than 650 people are currently employed within the affected departments, according to the council.
Hundreds of staff have already had a verbal briefing, with letters due to be posted home to workers on October 30.
The council has said it does not know final numbers at this stage, however the unions expect several hundred jobs to be under review.
Unison expects jobs to be axed from the council’s library, leisure and housing services, as well as its support provision for older people.
However this could change as the council prepares its draft budget proposals. More details will be heard at the council’s cabinet meeting on November 4.
Dave Smith, branch secretary for Gateshead’s Unison branch, said for some of his members this was the third year in a row they had been told their job is at risk by being sent what’s known as an ‘188 at risk’ letter.
“This is the first time the home support service has been looked at because that’s part of services for vulnerable people.
“It’s just a treadmill, it’s cut after cut after cut. For some people they have had three ‘at risk’ letters over the past three years.
“How do you plan anything? If you’re at risk on a 188 letter, that affects your mortgage as you’ve got to declare it. This has a huge impact on people’s lives.
“Christmas will be cancelled yet again.”
However he said there was always a big difference between the number of people getting letters of being ‘at risk’ and those who will eventually lose their jobs through compulsory redundancy.
One worker, who works within the home support service, said:
“This service is needed. I don’t understand how people can just come in and take it away.
“It’s absolutely shocking. It could happen as soon as January and once we get Christmas out of the way that will be it.”
In 2012 the council scrapped 1,000 jobs, however the announcement for 2015-16 is expected to be considerably less.
A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said:
“Due to reductions in Government funding, Gateshead Council has an estimated funding gap of £46m over the next two years.
“We are in the process of drafting proposals that will be put forward to Cabinet on Tuesday, November 4, to consider beginning formal consultation on the draft proposals.
“However, no decisions will be made until our budget is agreed at the end of February 2015. When we are facing funding pressures of this scale, it is highly likely that a number of employees will be directly affected by the draft proposals.
“Where this is the case, every effort will be made to limit the number of compulsory redundancies.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014