POLL: NCC to cut staff to meet budget

NEWCASTLE City Council is set to cut its workforce to rein in a potential $8million budget deficit.

Council general manager Phil Pearce said a collapse in revenues  meant the council had recorded a draft deficit of $3million for the three months from July.

Left unchecked that would result in an $8million deficit for the year.

Mr Pearce said the main causes of the revenue gap were reductions in tip income and development application fees, and the loss of income from parking fees once the impending sales of three council car parks were completed.

Money raised from those sales could not be counted  because it would go into a fund for future uses.

Mr Pearce said the council would move to balance its budget by not replacing the bulk of departing staff and by halving its budget for casual workers, unplanned overtime and labour hire.

He said about 8per cent of the council staff left each year and only those deemed ‘‘critical’’ would have their positions replaced.

He said the job cuts would not affect existing employees, but the United Services Union, which represents most council staff, said it would stand up for its members’ rights.

Union organiser Robert Potter said the union was concerned about the impact on long-term casual staff, some of whom had worked for the council for a decade or more.

Mr Pearce said the council had plugged a previous $8.5million hole in its budget by a special rate variation, but everyone was finding the going tough this year.

He said the council had about 330 staff on its casual books, many of whom were outdoor staff such as lifesavers and gardeners.

On the permanent workforce, Mr Pearce said the only positions that would be replaced would be a small number of jobs deemed ‘‘critical’’.

If the job cuts began to affect service delivery, the council would have to look at ‘‘whether or not we need to continue doing that work’’ or whether more jobs needed to be defined as critical.

Mr Pearce said tip revenues were down by about $700,000 in a full year but the council had clawed some money back by encouraging some commercial operators to return to Summerhill through lower charges.

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