AROUND 162 posts are being slashed at Poole council as cuts bite across the borough.

As Borough of Poole sets its budget for 2011/12 the toll of lost jobs stands at 33 compulsory redundancies and 26 voluntary, with the rest due to retirement and not filling vacant posts.

Council leader Councillor Elaine Atkinson delivering her first budget speech, paid tribute to the “valued staff members” who were losing their jobs and thanked others for the pay freeze they had endured and for helping find savings to keep more jobs.

She said she hoped the number of compulsory redundancies could drop further if more suitable vacancies arose this month.

Over a dozen members of the Bournemouth and Poole Anti-Cuts Coalition waved banners and tooted horns outside the Civic Centre as councillors arrived for the budget-setting meeting.

“These cuts will affect real people – and those who need the services most will suffer the most,” said chairman Darren Brown.

“That simply isn’t fair.”

Cllr Atkinson acknowledged that: “Some cuts feel harsh. For example the changes in eligibility criteria for social care brought in last year, ceasing the subsidy on delivered meals and putting a price on some social care services.”

Facing grant cuts and having made savings of £14 million, Borough of Poole has set a net revenue budget of £102 million for 2011/12.

Members agreed a zero council tax increase – the charge for a Band D property with police and fire precepts will be £1,449.99 – no pay rise for staff, a freeze on members’ allowances and using some unearmarked reserves, leaving £5.96m in the pot.

“The council’s priority is to protect services for the most vulnerable and so very careful and astute planning has ensured we have kept this aim in the forefront of our minds when providing a balanced budget for 2011/12,” said Cllr Atkinson.

Councillor Mike Brooke, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, put forward an alternative budget was voted down, although some aspects were welcomed by the Conservative administration and will be looked at.

“It does not protect the services that most affect the vulnerable and it does little for children and young people,” he said of the Conservative budget.