ST HELENS Council has invited staff to take voluntary redundancy as it seeks to mitigate job cuts as part of plans to save £22 million in 2021-22.

The local authority is the largest employer in the borough, and is preparing to make swingeing cuts to claw back a budget gap of £20 million.

Last week, St Helens Council leader David Baines said it is “inevitable that frontline, much-loved and much-used services are going to be affected”.

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And on Monday evening, chief executive Kath O’Dwyer, emailed staff to inform them of two schemes she hopes will reduce the impact of any job losses.

The council will be accepting applications for voluntary redundancy from today.

St Helens Council has been confirmed this to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

A council spokesman said: “The council is currently looking at a very significant budget gap for 2021-22.

“To address this gap we’re having to look at a variety of measures to make budget savings.

“This includes looking at how we can deliver our services differently in the future, with increased demand for some services and less and less financial resources available to us.

“This will mean a programme of service reviews, redesigns and restructures, which may ultimately impact on staffing numbers.

“In order to help reduce the impact of any job losses it is only right that we try to offset this by offering voluntary redundancy or exit to those staff who may want to leave the organisation.

“This is part of us doing everything we can to prevent, where possible, compulsory redundancies.”

In addition to the voluntary redundancy scheme, the council will be launching its Mutual Resignation Scheme (MARS) on Monday, January 25.

The scheme will enable employees, in agreement with the council, to choose to leave their job voluntarily in return for a discretionary ‘severance’ payment.

The measures come after the council’s Labour cabinet agreed proposals to cut £27 million from the council’s budget over the next three years.

The bulk of that – £22 million – is planned for 2021-22.

In the letter sent to staff, which has been seen by the LDRS, Ms O’Dwyer said it is “inevitable” that staffing numbers are likely to be impacted.

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At this time only requests from employees on the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services and Soulbury Conditions of Service will be considered for voluntary redundancy.

Requests from any school-based employees will not currently be considered.

Ms O’Dwyer said: “By taking the approach of opening up VR (voluntary redundancy) and MARS (Mutual Resignation Scheme) opportunities, it is hoped it will enable the redeployment of resources to higher priority areas of work, reduce costs in lower priority areas and importantly seek to avoid future compulsory redundancies.”