Local government layoffs looming

Shrinking tax revenues will force one in three Swedish municipalities to lay off employees this year.

According to responses from 257 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities to a survey sent by Svergies Radio (SR), nearly every municipality expects budgetary problems in 2009.

In almost every case, tax income predictions on which last autumns budgets were based are unlikely to be realized.

All told, municipalities in Sweden is facing a budget shortfall of 5.5 billion ($684 million), which could mean the elimination of up to 2,500 local government jobs.

“When the money is gone, municipalities don’t have any other option than to do what everyone else is doing, that is to say, give notice, make people redundant, and shut down operations,” said Ingemar Sandström, a Centre Party municipal council member from Nordmaling on Sweden’s northeast coast which is planning layoffs.

But the final number of job losses will vary depending on exactly what action different municipalities decide to take.

In addition, four of ten municipalities told SR that they plan to raise different fees as another remedy to make up expected budget deficits.

One last resort is to raise taxes, although most municipalities would rather avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary.

“If we raise taxes, we would have the highest in Sweden, so that doesn’t seem like a really fun way out of this,” said Ewa-May Karlsson, a Centre Party municipal council member from Vindeln in northern Sweden, to SR.


Sweden boosts spending on civil defence in spring budget

Sweden is to channel a further 800 million kronor to local government and other organisations to bolster Sweden's civil defence capabilities, the country's finance minister has announced.

Sweden boosts spending on civil defence in spring budget

The new funding, which will go to municipalities, regional government, and other organisations, was announced of part of the country’s spring budget, announced on Tuesday. 

“This will strengthen our ability to resist in both war and peace,” Sweden’s finance minister, Mikael Damberg, said in a press conference. “If the worst happens, it’s important that there is physical protection for the population.” 

The government is channelling 91m kronor towards renovating Sweden’s 65,000 bomb shelters, and will also fund the repair the country’s network of emergency sirens, known as Hesa Fredrik, or Hoarse Fredrik, many of which are currently out of order. 

A bomb shelter in Stockholm. Sweden’s government is spending 800m kronor in its spring budget to boost civil defence. Photo: Anders Wiklund/ TT

Sweden’s Social Democrats are currently ruling on the alternative budget put together by the right-wing opposition, making this spring budget, which makes changes to the autumn budget, unusually important. 

The budget includes extra spending of some 31.4 billion kronor (€299m), with 500m kronor going to extra spending on healthcare,  and 10.3 billion kronor going towards supporting Ukrainian refugees, of which nine billion will come from the aid budget. 

The spring budget also includes the so called “pension guarantee bonus”, or garantitillägg, which will see four billion kronor (€390m) going to those with the lowest pensions. 

The bonus, which was the price the Left Party demanded for letting Magdalena Andersson take her place as prime minister, risks being voted down by the right-wing parties in the parliament.