SIXTY council workers have been told their jobs are at risk because of an in-year government cut - with further pain then announced in the Budget.

As reported in the News, Bracknell Forest was told last week that it faces a £785,000 budget cut this year, 2010-11, which has resulted in 60 staff across all departments being sent letters warning them of possible redundancy, with a decision due to be made within weeks.

Cllr Paul Bettison, the leader of Bracknell Forest Borough Council, has warned though that further redundancies in the future and cuts to services are likely because of a predicted 12.5% reduction in the council's funding from central government over the following four years.

Cllr Bettison said: "With that level of savings needing to be made, we are not just looking at buying smaller paper clips and shorter rubber bands." He said that the council's four directors and chief executive have all taken voluntary pay freezes this year, in addition to the pay freeze that the council had agreed for all staff next year - before the government's announcement of two years' pay freeze beyond that.

Cllr Bettison said he was worried about the four-year pay freeze could now force some of the council leadership to move elsewhere, which could then entail expensive recruitment costs and a loss of experience.

He said that the VAT rise from 17.5% to 20% from January 4 would affect the council's charges for its leisure services and cafes, with the council likely to absorb some costs but put other prices up. Library opening times might also be shortened again.

Cllr Bettison added: "I think leisure services will come under intense scrutiny, especially those that aren't very well patronised, and the arts.

"In the past where certain facilities haven't made money, councils have said, 'We know they cost money but we'll keep pumping money in because it's nice to have them'. If we you are every short of money, you start to think about whether you can continue to keep doing that." Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has also pressed for councils to all collect rubbish weekly, rather than every two weeks in Bracknell Forest with recycling collected in between.

But Cllr Bettison said: "I think, given the level of customer satisfaction, then we will continue with our weekly collections of rubbish one week then recycling the next.

"The greatest concern, and I know a lot of other council leaders around the country feel the same, if we were to reintroduce a weekly collection of the landfill rubbish, then people would tend to stop sorting their rubbish out and just put it out for landfill, and the cost of that would be millions of pounds to the council.

"The cost of going back to collecting rubbish is not the cost of actually physically doing it, it's the cost of landfill tax, which is going to be doubling again. That would absolutely cripple a council, to have to pay the sort of landfill tax we would have to pay if people were to stop recycling." Cllr Bettison added: "We are continuing to seek more efficiencies so that we can maintain frontline services. We are looking at taking money out of red tape and administration."