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After backlash, Somerset council abandons plans to force staff to take unpaid Christmas leave

Somerset County Council has scrapped plans to force staff to take two days unpaid leave over Christmas.

The cash strapped authority had planned for its employees to take unpaid leave between Christmas and New Year’s Day for the next two years in order to save just under £500,000.

But the county council has written to employees saying it “would not be progressing the proposal” after the scheme was rejected by trade union members.

Somerset council needs to save £11.4m across the remainder of the financial year, and in September approved £13m in emergency cuts to tackle this deficit.

With major cuts to services and 130 jobs to be cut, council leader David Fothergill called it the “most difficult savings proposals it has had to consider.”

The council did agree to delay a decision on proposed cuts to its young carers service, and has now also abandoned its plans for unpaid Christmas leave – which would have meant all council offices shutting down over Christmas.

The letter sent to all employees was seen by the BBC and said it had decided to drop its plans for compulsory leave, but that it would be opening a voluntary scheme instead.

It said: “We are still planning for county hall to close over the Christmas week and managers have already been working on what this means for their teams.”

“The proposed savings from the unpaid leave proposal have been put into individual service area budget plans for this year and next, which means that budgets will have such reductions built into them.”

Somerset council needed to make £19.5m of savings in 2017-18 but only made cuts of £11.1m, leading to the £13m emergency savings plan.

The saving measures included job losses, major cuts to public transport and special need services, and the unpaid Christmas leave.

With Somerset making £130m in savings over the last eight years, Fothergill said the council had reached the “very sharp end” of austerity.

The council’s interim director of finance said it might still fail to set a “sustainable budget” even with the latest wave of cuts, and that progress would have to be closely monitored.


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