MORE than 65 employees at Stroud District Council could lose their jobs as the authority faces a £3million hole in its finances.

The council is considering reducing its workforce by 20 per cent due to financial pressures created by a loss of government grants and changes to the New Homes Bonus.

In total, 337 staff are employed by SDC which could mean 67 members of staff lose their jobs.

The 337 figure doesn’t account for casual staff such as seasonal lifeguards or students working temporarily over the summer.

David Hagg, SDC chief executive, said: “Like other councils, we face huge pressure on our finances. We will be the first authority in Gloucestershire to lose all the grant we receive from the government.

“In 2019/20 the district’s council taxpayers will be paying £549,000 to the government, something I have never come across in my local government career. This will be the largest sum paid by any Gloucestershire council and marks a new relationship between central and local government.

“Effectively, we have to become a ‘self-financing’ council.

“If we don’t take action we could face a £3million hole in our finances by 2021.

“Increased income and more efficiencies are part of our agenda but a large part of our spending is on our workforce. Consequently, we’re looking at what a 20 per cent reduction in staffing over four years means for us.

“We haven’t decided this yet but we have to plan for more spending cuts as part of tackling the budget challenge.”

However, Cllr Debbie Young (Conservative, Chalford) said the council could have avoided having to consider so many job losses.

“It is ironic that the council are now saying this, when they have just filled all the vacancies that were currently outstanding and a £250,000 contingency fund has been put in place to retain staff in housing,” she said.

“This reduction in central government funding is why Stroud Conservatives have opposed the use of all the council’s reserves to build further housing which would take at least 30 years to see any return and removes any resilience.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Steve Lydon (Labour, The Stanleys), said: “Sadly, as SDC is considering its budget and how we can balance the books, we are considering staffing numbers.

"As we are working on this, it’s important we inform staff that those deliberations are taking place.”

In Cllr Lydon’s SNJ column this week, he said: “This council and other authorities are having to make tough decisions because of the financial cuts we face from the government. 

He said SDC is renting out parts of its Ebley Mill offices commercially to raise more money, and added: “Councils across the country are taking similar measures to meet the financial challenges ahead.”

Cllr Ken Tucker, the SDC Lib Dem leader, said "All Councils are currently finding it very hard to balance the books, due to the Government’s financial cut-backs.

"Sale of some of the council’s building assets continues, which will reduce annual financial support and some of the council’s land, including garage sites, has been put up for sale.

"However, even with measures being put in place, it is possible that a reduction in staff numbers will be required."

Cllr Simon Pickering (Green, Stroud Slade) said: “A financially successful council like Stroud, rather than be rewarded, will be penalised by the government by slashing funding.

"However no decision have yet been made, and there is work going on to see what options there are.”

Currently the income for SDC comes from government grants and the New Homes Bonus, as well as council tax and business rates.

A spokesman for SDC said: “Stroud District Council, in common with all local government, has seen significant reductions in the level of government funding since 2010. 

“The council is assessing the likelihood of further changes to the New Homes Bonus over the coming years (worth £3.2m in 2016/17, £2.7m in 2017/18) that could mean it will be reliant only on council tax and business rates income to fund its services.

“Additionally, legislative changes that would have allowed local government to retain 100% of business rates income have been put on hold. 

“These uncertainties have put the council in a difficult and unpredictable position.”