Redundancies are increasing at Dorset County Council – as the authority heads towards oblivion.

More staff took redundancy in the last quarter than in any previous period over the financial year.

Forty four were approved between January and March – compared to 72 for the whole year.

The average payout is around £14,000 per person and over the whole year the county council has paid out £1.85 million… but says it will make a saving of £2.17m with the cost of the redundancies paid for within ten months.

County staffing committee chairman Cllr Peter Wharf said at a meeting on Monday that the figures were ‘exceptional’ and compared well with the private sector where payback periods were typically three years. In January to the end of March the highest number of redundancies, 32, were in Children’s Services, followed by Environment and Economy 16, and Adult and Community services 6. The total payout for the quarter was £917,506 with a total annual saving of £1.16million.

Human Resources advisor Carl Wilcox told the committee that the figures for the final quarter showed a marked increase in the rate of redundancy compared to previous quarters which had been running at an average of around ten.

The county council is being disbanded in April next year when the new Dorset Council will take over its duties together with the duties of the existing district and borough councils.

Committee members heard that there is some nervousness in all local councils as Dorset heads towards local government reorganisation.

Mr Wilcox said that sickness and other measures were being monitored to see where people might be feeling the strain with appropriate help and advice being offered, where needed. Briefings are also being arranged to re-assure staff about the change to the new council and what it might mean for jobs.

Not all vacancies are being advertised with some posts being held open until the structure of the new council is known.

Financial officer Jim McManus said that the authority was currently predicting an underspend, at the end of March, of £600,000 on staff salaries. If all current vacancies were frozen, the saving could be as much as £4.5million – £1m of this from Children’s Services which was having to employ agency staff because of problems recruiting, although it’s overall budget for staff is expected to be overspent because of having to hire agency staff.

Cllr Ray Bryan warned of the dangers or losing staff in the transition period because of uncertainty: “With all of this uncertainty we have got to find a way of settling people down…we should do everything we can to make sure we don’t lose key people who are essential to the future of the new authority.”