Staff numbers may be reduced as Dorset Council bids to balance budget

Staff numbers may be reduced as Dorset Council bids to balance budget

SOME job losses are possible at Dorset Council during the year as the authority works to balance its books.

The council’s coffers man says changes in service delivery are unlikely to result in widespread job losses and the number of post offices, if any, will be limited.

Aidan Dunn, executive director for finance, said: “Some service changes will impact headcount, but there will be no need for a major layoff program.”

His comments came during a discussion in the Audit Committee on Thursday over the council’s budget for the coming fiscal year – with the agency currently proposing a nearly 4 per cent increase in council tax, half of it to boost the social welfare budget.

Councilors were told a tough year ahead as the agency faced inflationary costs, additional demand for many services and most payrolls already double the council’s estimates.

Some of the anticipated funding gaps will need to be filled through higher municipal taxes and increases in fees and charges, as well as long-term changes in how the municipality operates, along with shorter-term tactical savings.

Council members have been told material costs have risen by 20 to 30 per cent and, until recently, fuel costs have also risen – a sizable sum when the council’s vans, trucks and buses combined can use up to a quarter of a million liters of fuel a month, although in the last full month for November it was only 185,000 liters.

In addition to the increase in council tax, the agency expects an average increase in its charges of 5 per cent, including collecting an additional £1.3m a year from increases in public car park charges.

Dorchester Councilor Andy Canning has called for a delay in increasing parking rates until the service is well established. He said that currently many pay stations are not working, the parking app is not working in many areas due to poor phone signal, and too many parking lots are unlit and have damaged surfaces.

“It’s difficult to justify fee increases when the service has been as bad as it was before,” Cllr Canning said.

But portfolio owner for the service, Ray Bryan, said delaying an increase is not an option as the council needs the money and has already ordered 260 new parking terminals and more are to come.

He claimed that the council’s parking rates were good value for money compared to other agencies, noting that parking rates for a day in neighboring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are £7-8 more.

Finance director Mr Dunn said the council is budgeting for an additional £4.4million from an emergency budget to help with the rising costs of running the council.

A report predicted doing nothing would mean the council’s funding shortfall would grow – from a forecast £13.8m in 24/25 to £41.2m in 2028/29.

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