Kirklees Council is yet to put a figure on how many jobs will be lost as a result of what’s been described as the “worst budget in the history of Kirklees.”

The council’s Cabinet, faced with making cuts of £47 million, has drawn up a draft budget which will go to full council for approval on March 6.

As part of its cost-cutting measures last year, the council put a freeze on non-essential recruitment and there was a warning that as many as 750 jobs would be lost. That figure was included in an official notice to unions, known as a HR1 notice, but that was always likely to be a worst case scenario.

Last August the council’s biggest union, UNISON, warned of a “first wave” of 250 redundancies between October 2023 and March 2024 but that has not materialised.

The union, which has around 4,500 members or just over half the workforce of the council, consulted members on a possible strike ballot at the time.

At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall, Tory group leader Clr David Hall asked Cabinet member for finance Clr Graham Turner how many jobs were at risk.

Clr Turner said it was “difficult to say” but added that no-one had yet been made redundant.

“We said all the way through we would look to re-deploy or re-train people to minimise the effect of any redundancy package,” he said. “So far we have not made anybody redundant. We have managed to move people around.

“We do have a natural churn in normal circumstances of around 100 people per month but some of those people we will have to replace because they have some specialist skills.

“Where it’s possible – and lots has already happened – people will be re-deployed into other areas where they have the skillset to do those jobs.

“I assure you we will do all we can to reduce or eliminate redundancies because unfortunately they cost us a lot of money.

“It’s also not fair to ask staff to make people redundant when we may have an opportunity within the council for them to re-train.

“Our aim is to retain as many staff as possible and not go down the route of redundancies.”

The draft budget published by the council offers little real detail but does hint at job losses, which could include vacant posts being scrapped. The budget refers to “potential FTE impacted” – council speak for ‘jobs at risk.’ FTE stands for ‘full-time equivalent.’

In the Children and Families Directorate, for example, a shake-up in services puts more than 80 jobs at risk.

Closing Customer Service Centres in Huddersfield and Dewsbury and moving them into libraries will mean 32.5 full-time equivalent jobs going in 2024-25 and 14.5 in 2025-26.

A spokesman for UNISON said: “The current position is that UNISON remains concerned that the cuts will have a significant impact on jobs and services.

“Over the past six months UNISON has negotiated with the council to ensure that there have been no redundancies.

“We hope to be able to achieve similar success over the coming year but that doesn’t mean that there will be no impact on local services.

“Savings on staffing costs are likely to be achieved through vacancy management, which still means that some services will be reduced.

“UNISON welcomes the news that Castle Grange and Claremont House care homes are to remain open following the fantastic community campaign that was led by a number of inspirational local women. We were proud to support them.

“We will continue to challenge Kirklees Council as well as partner organisations like Kirklees Active Leisure in order to defend jobs and services.”

At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Clr Turner described the budget as the “worst in the history of Kirklees.” Kirklees Council is 50 years old on April 1st 2024.

The council’s budget monitoring has shown that the council’s financial position has improved, with its forecast overspend for 2023-24 reducing from £16.1m in October to £9.9m. It also confirms that the council is on target to deliver on £19.8m of in-year savings.

Clr Turner added: “Throughout this financially challenging period, we have been open and honest about the issues we have faced and the difficult decisions we have had to make, as a result.

“A combination of factors including the cost-of-living crisis, national economic chaos and a funding system that penalises places like Kirklees have continued to affect local authorities up and down the country, even prudent councils like ours.

“All our services rely on sustainable funding. That’s why we’ve been taking the tough action we need to set a fair and balanced budget for next year and why we’re controlling costs so vigorously in the current year.

“The financial monitoring report for this quarter of the year tells us three things. First, we are delivering the savings we put forward at the beginning of this financial year.

“It also confirms that we are taking considerable costs out of the organisation across the board. We have set a balanced budget for next year but we still face the very real challenges that come with the uncertain financial landscape.

“We have been saying the same thing over and over again but nothing changes. The system of local government funding is broken. And it’s vital local services and communities who are paying the price.”