MORE than 200 staff have been accepted for voluntary redundancy as Somerset Council battles to avoid bankruptcy - with nearly 50 each set to receive £100,000 or more in pay-offs.

The first round of redundancies is likely to cost the authority a total of nearly £13 million.

The jobs cuts are being bankrolled by the sale of council assets after the Government approved a £39.6 million capitalisation, allowing the income to be used for day to day bills such as wages.

It was one of a number of measures the council said were needed to plug a £100 million budget gap which caused it to declare a financial emergency last year.

Up to 1,200 job losses, or 26 per cent of the council’s workforce, will eventually be approved over the next two years to save £40 million a year on salaries as the threat hangs over the authority of having to issue a ‘section 114’ notice, local government’s version of going bankrupt.

To do so would mean the Government sending in commissioners to take control of the council from the current Liberal Democrat administration and allow spending only on services it was legally bound to deliver.

The first 49 redundancies will be recommended to councillors for approval at next Wednesday’s (May 22) meeting of the full council.

The pay-off to the first 201 staff to go will total £12.842 million, reducing the wage bill by £8.204 million, achieving pay-back in less than two years.

Because 49 of the posts involve paying out £100,000 or more, including ‘pension strain’ payments, they have to be voted on by councillors.

A council spokesperson said: “In all cases, staff will receive only the amounts they are contractually entitled to receive.

“As the cost will be met from capital funds, as approved by Government, the pay bill reduction will start as soon as the post is removed.”

Council leader Cllr Bill Revans said: “We had to make many difficult and heartbreaking decisions to set our budget this year, and that included plans for a top-to-bottom restructure of our council.

“We have always been clear about our position and it is essential that we make the tough choices to ensure our council is financially viable.

“The financial cost is in line with the legal terms and conditions of the post holders, no more, no less.

“This is the first step and we know there will be further changes and reductions in staff numbers coming through over the next 12 months as we look to find over £40 million of savings from our pay bill.”

In setting the 2024-25 budget in February, councillors endorsed a new vision for a ‘leaner, more productive council’ and agreed to save around £40 million from the pay bill by reducing the number of staff and managers, including senior directors.

It blamed its financial crisis largely on costs of adult social care and children’s services which it legally had to provide without having any control over spiralling demand.