THE number of staff at Wiltshire Council has dropped by almost a third in the past seven years as the authority looks to save millions of pounds and schools convert to academies.

According to the latest figures more than 5,000 employees have been affected across all services including social care, schools, housing and planning and waste collection.

The authority has dropped its staff headcount from 15,670 in 2010 to 10,586 this year – a reduction of 32 per cent – with much of this down to school staff being transferred to academies.

Commenting on the figures, a Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “Eighty per cent of that reduction relates to Wiltshire maintained schools, and the most significant reason for this is that a number of these schools have converted to academies, and some of these have joined multi academy trusts.

“Staff in academies are no longer employees of the council, and we are unable to comment on any headcount reductions in academy schools.

“The remaining reduction relates to ongoing steps to improve efficiencies in light of reduced funding which has resulted in a headcount reduction of around 1,000 in respect of council employees in the period quoted.”

General workers’ union the GMB said that the cuts in staff numbers have impacted on council services and is urging the government to stop further cuts to local authorities.

The union’s regional secretary Paul Maloney said: “Local councils in Dorset and Wiltshire area have been faced with savage cuts in the number of people they employ to carry out vital services for local residents. Even when changes in definitions and the movement of workers in and out of the council’s employment are taken into account the drop in headcount has been massive.

“The message from GMB and from local councils to central government is that the cuts have gone far enough and in fact we need to start a period where the services are built back up again.”