More than 400 jobs at risk as council slashes budget due to Covid crisis

More than 400 jobs could go at Luton Council as it tries to balance the books after the coronavirus crisis. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Luton Council has announced job losses and cuts in frontline services to meet a £50m shortfall in its budget because of the pandemic.

The council has announced an emergency budget following what is says is the "catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on its finances."

The council owns Luton airport and since the lockdown it has lost the income from aviation that it uses to fund services.

In an emergency budget report, Luton Council says 428 jobs or 14% of its workforce are affected.

Among the services that face being cut are school improvement, the council tax support scheme, adult social care and home care as well as road maintenance.

Luton has been one of the towns in the region hit hardest by the coronavirus with 191 people dying with the illness between March and May.

Luton is the only council in Britain to be the 100% owners of an airport and income from it funded nearly a quarter of council services. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The leader of the Labour council is Hazel Simmons, who said the past few weeks had been the worst of her political career.

She is calling on the government to help with additional finance.

As a result of Covid-19, the council says it is faced with a £50m shortfall in its finances, even after taking into account the money already provided to councils to deal with the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.

Luton Councils says finance from the airport has been most affected but other income streams from commercial sources as well as business rates and council tax have also been hard hit.

The council will take money from its reserves but still needs to take out almost £22m from the budget in order to fulfil its legal duty to balance the books.

The Prime Minister is still urging parents to send their children to school. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Luton is the only council in Britain to be the 100% owners of an airport and £33.5 income from Luton Airport was expected to fund nearly a quarter of council services in 2020/21.

The airport has been largely shut down since March and now says it won't pay a dividend to the council this year or next.

The council says it has working around the clock to cut spending and has already identified more than £9m of savings through measures such as back office efficiencies, improving the way contracts are managed, savings from building closures and proposals to bring in more income.

These are the services that are being targeted for further cuts:

  • reducing face to face contact, except for our most vulnerable residents

  • a review of the council tax support scheme

  • reductions in neighbourhood enforcement, public protection services and highways maintenance

  • introducing charging for green waste collection

  • energy savings on street lights

  • a reduction in adult social care and home care funding

  • reduced funding for key preventative and mental health support services

  • a review of the way we support travel for adults and children who require it

  • reductions in funding for school improvement, youth advice and early years services

Between March and May, nearly 200 people have died with coronavirus in Luton. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The proposals anticipate at least 365 posts being taken out of the organisation.

A large proportion of these relate to its school meals service where the council expects many of its staff to be able to transfer directly to schools or other meal providers.

The council will also not fill vacant posts and offer voluntary redundancies and reduced hours.

It is proposing to save £500,000 from a review of the current senior leadership team structure, which currently has three vacancies.