More than 400 Ealing Council workers have been told they are at risk of redundancy as the borough battles to save £96million.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the Labour-run council, has also warned that some services may be need to be axed by early 2019, and blamed the crisis on "unprecedented cuts from central government".

Discussions have started to take place across the council with affected staff. The council says it is making every effort to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies and offer redeployment and voluntary redundancy.

Cllr Bell said: "The scale of cuts that we are now facing means that we have had no choice but to re-think how the council operates in the future to stay within our vastly reduced means. By the end of this process the government will have taken away more than half the money we used to get to run local services. We have no option but to make tough decisions about what we can and can’t fund in the future.

"Over the past few years we have done our best to protect the most vulnerable and ease the financial burden on our residents. This will continue to be at the forefront of our decision-making."

Leader of the council Julian Bell
 

He added: "As part of these cuts we have no option but to significantly reduce the number of people working for the council. Ealing is very lucky to have a talented group of people working for us who are dedicated to public service.  This process will not be easy I would like to thank every member of staff for their work and ongoing commitment to putting residents’ needs first."

Pressure on the council's finances have come from cuts in its government funding, a rising population, increasing demands on services, rising costs and a shortage of housing in the borough. It has yet to announce which services could be ended in Spring 2019.

On Tuesday, 25 November, the council’s cabinet will consider detailed proposals for around £50million of savings over the next four years. Proposals for the remaining budget reductions will be considered by councillors at future cabinet meetings.

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and welfare, said: "We are in no doubt about the scale of the challenge ahead. The money we do have will be spread far more thinly and we will have no choice but to prioritise what we do and ensure services are provided more cheaply. While there are no easy solutions or choices we have a good track record in making these decisions in a fair and balanced way.  This experience will be invaluable in the coming months."

The £96million to be saved is in addition to to £87million the council will have already reduced from the amount it spends on services by next April.

Despite the grim situation, Cllr Bell said the administration still intended to freeze council tax again next year. He said: "Raising council tax to fill the black hole in our finances is not a realistic option. As bills would need to roughly double to cover the projected shortfall. That is how big the funding gap is."