Cuts are being planned across Thanet council departments -including tourism and operational services – but suggestions are also being made to raise more cash to combat the need for ‘efficiencies.’
All department heads at the authority have been told to look at how savings can be made as the council attempts to balance its books and not deplete its reserves.
According to the budget for 2019-20 -which was agreed by a majority at full council on February 28 – proposals are to make £250,000 in organisational efficiencies.
Operational services include areas such as bin collections, parking, street cleaning, enforcement, playgrounds, cemeteries and public toilets. Tourism comes under the coastal development portfolio but is among the areas being examined.
That department deals with everything from promoting Thanet nationally as well as highlighting and organising events locally. It works with other organisations to help bring in some 4.2 million visitors with an annual £319 million spend to the Thanet economy each year, supporting 7,950 jobs.
The Isle of Thanet News understands some staff have received letters and are now in consultation over possible redundancies.
Margate Central ward councillor Iris Johnston says she has serious concerns after being told seasonal workers could be replaced by volunteers.
The former council leader and chair of British Destination, a national body overseeing tourism, said: “I voted against the budget in its entirety and have challenged areas such as the massive increases for coach parking.
“I have serious concerns about being told seasonal workers, so possibly beach cleaning, will be replaced with volunteers. If existing much valued staff are being made redundant and replaced by volunteers it is obvious the job is not redundant.
“It was also said that the work previously done by Your Leisure will be taken on by volunteers. You can’t have volunteer beach inspectors or tannoy announcers unless they are strictly vetted .
“Tourism has seen massive increases and is also about economic development, all the businesses this spreads to, meaning cuts will have knock on effects.
“The tourism staff do an amazing job and bring in business and recognition for Thanet.”
Council Cabinet member for coastal development, Ash Ashbee, said the work to find savings is ongoing across the whole of the authority and not just one department.
She stressed that no decisions have been made for specific cuts but added that there has to be “reductions across the whole of operational services.”
The business owner added: “Department heads are aware that they have to make reductions because of the overall budget targets. We are looking at everything, across the board so this is not specific to tourism.”
But Cllr Ashbee said raising revenue could help reduce cuts and events such as the Turner Prize could help with that. She said: “Rather than making cuts we could increase revenue and I think this is the best way to do it.
“We need to look at ways of maximising on the Turner Prize coming to Thanet, generating income, and that is the angle I am looking at. We get just a small proportion of the council tax, with county council taking the largest cut, and government funding is being cut to nothing so we need to stand on our own two feet.
“We need to generate revenue rather than making continuous cuts as if you keep cutting eventually there is nothing left to cut
“There are a lot of areas where we provide a good service and advice that we could look at making income from.”
The Westbrook ward councillor also raised the idea of a new app inviting isle visitors to make a £5 donation towards the upkeep of beaches and amenities if they enjoyed their stay.
She said: “We have to look at better ways of extracting money from visitors who come and enjoy our beautiful beaches and facilities. They may think they are free but residents pay lots of money towards keeping them clean so why not have voluntary donations with an app to say before you leave, if you enjoyed your stay make a contribution.
“Yes there will have to be a remodelling and savings but we all need to do work together, cross party and the whole of Thanet, to also think of ways to bring in more revenue.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said the authority could not comment on job cuts that may occur due to restructuring, saying: “We would not comment on internal staff matters as they are confidential.”