NOTICES warning of more than 200 possible redundancies have gone out to council staff in rural Dorset – angering union officials and Labour.

They claim that the process of job losses was not expected to start until after the new unitary Dorset Council is created in April. A Unison statement says it has been left "infuriated and deeply shocked" by the move.

Labour says it believes that more than 200 staff have received the notices – but this has not been officially confirmed by any of the councils.

The local party has also criticised the action, claiming that promises have been broken.

Finance brief holder at the new council, Weymouth Cllr Tony Ferrari, told the January county council Cabinet meeting that it was a 'good news story' if job losses could be achieved earlier because it meant greater savings in the long term.

He said: “We have crystallised redundancy costs on 2018/19 that were not originally expected until 2019/20...

“Exceeding anticipated costs this financial year in this situation is good news not bad news. With some activities the earlier we invest the earlier we make savings, giving us more money to spend on front line services.”

New figures before councillors this week reveal an upturn in redundancy costs at the authority with 27 jobs lost in the environment and economy directorate through a restructure. Together with another three jobs losses from adult and community services the total redundancy bill for September to December has been put at £1.89million – a figure which the council calculates will be saved within 17 months.

The report, to the staffing committee, says there were five cases in the period where the severance package exceeded £100,000, the limit which the Government had planned to introduce in law, but has not yet done so.

In total around £9million is expected to be spent in redundancy costs as the new Dorset Council is created – affecting an estimated 240 posts.

In a statement West Dorset Labour Party says: “The employers are using the term “convergence” to justify the cut of a significant number of posts in advance of the structure of the new council being agreed.

“Despite initial assurance from the employers that there would be no redundancies prior to the transfer, the budget deficit now predicted means that over 200 members of staff have been issued with letters which state that they may be at risk of compulsory redundancy. These include team leaders and administrative support to the Senior Leadership Teams in the current councils as well as the most senior service and operational managers.

Unison has confirmed that it has received what are known as S188 Notices of Compulsory Redundancy and has contacted all its members believed to be affected.

“We have been meeting regularly with HR managers, but we have been taken by surprise at the way that Dorset Council is disregarding all agreed protocols and policies dealing with the re-structuring.

“We knew it was going to happen, we thought we knew who would be affected, what has surprised us is the scope, the depth and the inclusion of teams that are not being converged with anything.

“We are infuriated, deeply shocked and thoroughly disillusioned over the debacle of the messaging to affected staff. We have made this abundantly clear in messages that have gone back to the LGR project team”

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: "A statutory consultation started this week on the proposed transitional management structure for the new Dorset Council.

"We are directly engaging with Trades Unions, Elected Members and Employees who may be affected.

"At this stage, we have formally notified affected employees – the majority of whom are Managers within the existing councils. Those affected will be supported to apply for new roles in Dorset Council. If unchanged, current proposals would result in a net reduction of 117 posts.

"The proposed new structure has been developed to reduce duplication, reduce management costs and help the new Dorset Council maintain vital frontline services.

"This consultation will seek to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies through vacancy management, alternative employment and voluntary redundancy.

All views will be taken into account and the consultation process will not conclude until we are satisfied that all options have been considered."