Live Borders axes 12 staff to cut wage bill

Live Borders boss Ewan Jackson.

Live Borders boss Ewan Jackson.

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A dozen staff at Live Borders – the trust that took over the running of public libraries, museums, halls and community centres from Scottish Borders Council a year ago – are leaving it this week as it looks to cut its annual wage bill by more than £300,000.

They are among 32 members of staff to apply for departure deals as part of the council’s early retirement and voluntary severance programme.

A report recommending approval of the cost-cutting move was agreed at yesterday’s full council meeting, the last before the May 4 local government elections.

It does not name the individuals concerned.

It does, however, reveal that those leaving include a senior librarian, senior duty manager, museum curator, performing arts co-ordinator, visual arts officer, senior clerical officer and marketing and operations manager.

The dozen departures will leave the council footing one-off costs of £338,000, comprising severance lump sum payments totalling £209,000 and a strain on the local government pension fund valued at £129,000.

Councillors will hear that it will take just over a year for those costs to be recovered and that an annual wage bill saving of £320,000 will be made by the trust thereafter.

In November, Live Borders chief executive officer Ewan Jackson wrote to employees advising them of the need for the trust to make “significant” savings and inviting them to consider applying to leave.

At that time, the council had agreed to reduce its current annual management fee of £6.6m – representing 60% of Live Borders’ budget – by £521,000.

It is understood that this would have required the trust, also in charge of sports facilities and swimming pools across the region, to shed around 18 jobs.

However, last month, after the council received an extra £2.8m in its annual settlement from the Scottish Government, £200,000 of that anticipated cut to the trust was scrapped.

“Savings from the 12 applications for early retirement are considered necessary to allow Live Borders to meet its savings target for 2017-18,” states a report to yesterday’s meeting by Linda Ross, the council’s director of business services. “If approval is not given, the savings will not be fully realised.

“The risks to output and performance arising from the proposed resource reductions have been considered and evaluated to enable the Mr Jackson and his executive team to support the applications.”

In pursuit of further savings, Live Borders is also stopping stocking daily newspapers in its public libraries from tomorrow, April 1.