The Birmingham City Council department at the centre of the Khyra Ishaq tragedy has been inundated with requests from disenchanted staff pleading to be made redundant.
More than 700 employees at Birmingham’s Children, Young People and Families Directorate responded to a management trawl to volunteer to resign.
But only a “very small number” of applications were accepted, according to children’s director Tony Howell.
The decision to reject almost all of the applications raises fears that more than 1,000 staff could be forced out against their will in a cost-cutting drive.
A possible 1,300 job cuts in children’s services have been identified in the city’s 2010-11 budget, although front-line social services posts are protected.
The directorate is on course to overspend by £5.5 million this year.
Council leaders have said on a number of occasions that most of the posts can be found through voluntary redundancy, natural wastage or by not filling vacancies.
In an email sent to staff, Mr Howell explained that most of the applicants did not meet the criteria, even though about 230 were from the 50-55 age group identified as having priority status for voluntary redundancy.
His decision prompted opposition Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore to accuse the council of trying to save money by forcing people to opt for early retirement rather than the far more expensive route of voluntary redundancy.
Mr Howell said in his email: “Decisions were made with consideration to the on-going consultation in the areas under review, skill/knowledge shortages, retention of essential knowledge and qualification, whether the service area could delete posts, other alternatives much as priority movers, plus the financial situation and implication. Taking all these factors into account, a very small number of offers were made.”
Mr Howell went on to remind staff whose requests for redundancy were rejected that there is no process of appeal. He added: “I am sure a number of you are disappointed. But I understand your frustration that expectations may have been raised.
“All your efforts are appreciated at this difficult time. You remain dedicated to improving the lives of children.”
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: “The trade unions are telling us that most people applying for voluntary redundancy are being turned down. The reason for this is that the council is trying to cut costs by forcing people down the route of early retirement.”
From April 1 this year, new legislation makes it impossible for people under the age of 55 to take workplace pensions.
Sir Albert said it was likely the council would face legal action at an employment tribunal for alleged age discrimination.
He added: “Staff sickness in the Children, Young People and Families Directorate is high, morale is low, compulsory redundancies are just around the corner and it is clear that a combination of these factors is causing many hundreds of people to seek voluntary redundancy.”
Birmingham City Council was asked to clarify how many of the 700 requests for voluntary redundancy were approved, but a spokesman was unable to comment.