A BBC survey of local councils is predicting cuts in the workforce of 10% over the next three to five years. The recession has ht revenue from areas like parking and planning applications as well as asset sales. But the main reason why job losses are anticipated is a fall in Government grant. The prediction is that it will have to be sharp, by 15% or 20% – given that spending on other areas such as the NHS is not to be cut at all.
The BBC mentality is that job losses equates to service cuts. That sounds like the prevailing narrative of their "national conversation" on BBC local radio about the "difficult choices." Staff cuts can mean service cuts but they don't have to.
To take an example from my own council. We have a section called H&F Direct which provides a fast transactional service to residents for council tax, housing and education benefits, business rates, housing charges, penalty charge notices, resident parking permits. Headcount has been reduced from 227 in 2006/7 down to 149 in 2009/10 and costs have reduced by 29% or £3.6 million so far despite workload increasing from 2,000 callers needing assessment for benefits per month to 8,000 callers in last 9 months. Staff have been multi-skilled and online processes developed to process council tax payments, parking permits and housing benefit claims. 70% of parking permits are now be paid online.
Libraries are mentioned in the BBC account. Staff cuts could mean cutting open hours. Or often councils could reasonably conclude there was overmanning and that opening hours cold be extended with fewer staff – for instance through the staff having staggered lunch breaks rather than closing the library for the lunch hour.