Councils predict more layoffs in 2013

Recent trends indicate that it will be on-the-ground workers that will bear the brunt, and not the council bureaucrats

According to a new survey by trade union confederation FTF, seven out of every ten councils will be laying off employees during 2013. Some 54 of the country’s 98 mayors have already, or are on the cusp of, approved budgets for 2013, and 42 out of those 54, about 78 percent, said that there will be less funds in their municipal coffers than in 2012. Nearly 70 percent of the mayors surveyed predicted that their shrinking budgets will translate directly into fewer workers.

The mayoral feedback suggests that councils both small and large will be forced to make layoffs. Arne Boelt (Socialdemokraterne) the mayor of Hjørring Council in northern Jutland predicted that 2013 will be a tough year for council workers and inhabitants alike.

“We are lacking funds. We are in the process of down-prioritising within the children, education and elderly arenas. We’re closing down a nursing home, among other things, and on the administrative areas will expect a personnel reduction of 10-11 percent,” Boelt told FTF.

Hjørring Council’s budget for 2013 is about four billion kroner and it has been granted permission by the Interior Ministry to increase taxes by one percent. The tax increase and the cancellation of a planned stadium construction will save 80 million kroner, but it’s far from being enough.

“It so harsh that it should be illegal. We’re going to offer our employees working conditions and a psychological milieu that is unacceptable,” Boelt told FTF.

The story is the same in Brønderslev Council just south of Hjørring. In comparison with this year’s budget, next year’s will need to save nearly 37 million kroner, which will mean less workers, according to the council's mayor, Lene Hansen (Socialdemokraterne).

“When we have to save big, that will most likely entail personnel reduction, because most of our budget is dedicated to wages,” Hansen told FTF. “We have implemented a very tight financial regulation and we’ve had to save over 100 million kroner over the past three years.”

One of the political goals for Socialistisk Folkerparti (SF) before the elections was that 4,000 jobs would be cut from the administrative corridors of the council buildings while 7,000 jobs would be created for social worker, teachers and those working outside the bureaucracy.

But despite many of the politicians and mayors pledging to concentrate layoffs within the administrative and financial sectors, figures from council statistic gatherer Det Fælleskommunale Løndatakontor (DFL), clearly indicate that it will likely be teachers, social workers and nurses that will bear the brunt of the council cuts, and not  administration employees.

Between 2007 and 2012, the administrative personnel in councils increased from 50,047 to 56,679, while the number of social workers decreased from 196,203 to 182,292.

Roger Buch, a council researcher from Danmarks Journalisthøjskole, suggested that it was a form of cronyism.

“It’s not surprising that bosses from the councils are less inclined to layoff administrative employees that they know and work with on a daily basis,” Buch told Berlingske newspaper. “It becomes easier to join two schools or libraries together. It’s definitely an issue in which councils say one thing and then do another.”

But Michael Ziegler (Konservative), the mayor Høje Taastrup Council, contented that the layoff figures reflect the migration of more jobs from the institutions to the council headquarters.

“One of the reasons can also be explained by demography, as there is less need for teachers with fewer children about, while there is a greater need for case workers with the rise in unemployment,” Ziegler told Berlingske. “Basically it’s about administrative jobs being shifted from the institutions to the council offices. But that's not an excuse.”

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