Bexley Council has approved its latest strategy for a raft of money-saving measures including cutting up to 150 full-time posts from its budget in an effort to plug a large financial black hole.

The move, one of six cost-cutting proposals, could save the council £6 million in wages and pensions as it tries to balance a pandemic-ravaged budget for next year and beyond, whilst further consultation has been announced on plans for the borough's children's centres.

Whilst the council have expressed positivity towards plugging the sizeable gap, one Labour councillor has stated that "our staff have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic & their reward is to be issued their P45s."

The authority is facing a budget gap of just over £2 million for 2022/23, and increasing to £13.8 million by 2024/25, a gap which was confirmed last night to have existed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly made the authority’s financial position worse, only about half of the £7.223m overspend noted at the end of September can be attributed to the virus – with £3.706 pinned on “other pressures”.

On Tuesday evening, November 17, cabinet members approved the latest Medium Term Financial Strategy, setting out the next steps in planning the council's budget for 2021/22.

The cabinet considered a report on six savings proposals affecting local residents which took place over the summer, with 4,000 people taking part.

Along with staff reductions, proposals to raise council tax by 4%, reduce staffing and opening hours from libraries, remove grants from six community libraries and possibly close four children's centres remain.

READ MORE: Bexley Council could be forced into 'unplanned and unforeseen' cuts, auditor says

All proposals, except changes to the service delivery model for children centre which will now be further developed ahead of another consultation early next year, were approved, although a formal decision will be made in December.

Cabinet members also agreed to ask the government for a capitalisation order, which would give the council the option to spread some of the unprecedented financial impact and risk of the pandemic over future years.

Teresa O'Neill OBE, the leader of Bexley Council, said they, like all councils, face a "financial challenge to balance the books."

"There continues to be uncertainty on the funding of local government and the government reviews we were expecting this year have been delayed for a further year.

"The Council however must set a balanced budget for the next financial year. We have to plan based on what we know now, including the potential impact of the COVID pandemic, which creates more uncertainty."

But Daniel Francis, group leader of Bexley Labour, expressed dismay towards the situation.

The councillor paid tribute to the "fantastic Bexley Council staff for all they've done to support our residents in challenges times this year."

"The months ahead will be very tough for them following Cabinet's decision tonight which proposes to cut 304 FTE of posts in this year’s budget."

Francis explained on Twitter that if the plans are followed through, the process could see the equivalent of 230 FTE staff issued redundancy notices.

He said the only reason the council could even afford the necessary redundancy payments was by using the £9.5 million gained from the sale of the Turpin Road distribution centre in Erith last month.

"This is a direct result of the projected 47% reduction in the council's reserves from 2017-2021.

"It is this projection of having spent almost £29 million of reserves in 4 years that led the auditor to say there is "evidence of weaknesses in proper arrangements for planning finances effectively to support the sustainable delivery of strategic priorities over the medium term."

Francis pointed the blame towards the Conservatives and their policy of cuts to local government over the last 10 years.

"Our staff stepped up to the plate during the pandemic & their reward is to be issued their P45s."

"It's likely that Bexley tax payers (and possibly including my grandchildren!) will be paying for the cost of Covid in 25 yrs time, because the Govt wouldn't recompense the council.

"As the reserves have been reduced so heavily, the council has no other choice than to borrow the money."

Criticising the Conservative council leaders, Francis added: "Cutting 20% of council staff while not identifying which departments almost half the redundancies will come from, having to sell buildings to fund redundancy payments & having insufficient reserves for a pandemic is their record, which they will need to explain to our residents."