Council cuts workforce by 1,391 at cost of £6.5m

Cllr Jane Storey
Cllr Jane Storey
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NEARLY 1,400 employees at Suffolk County Council will have been made redundant by early next year – costing millions of pounds in pay offs.

The authority will have axed 1,391 people from its workforce from April 2010 to March 2012, according to a report presented to its scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

Up to July 31 this year, about £6.5 million in redundancy packages were paid out.

The level of pay offs were revealed to Green Party councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer, who requested the statistics from council leader Mark Bee.

In 2010/11, 558 workers lost their jobs costing £3,506,394.72 with a further 258 members of staff axed up to the end of July at a price of £2,959,243.61.

Since then, 121 people were made redundant with a possible further 340 redundancies by the end of the financial year.

Cllr Ereira-Guyer, who represents the Tower division, in Bury St Edmunds and sits on the scrutiny committee, said: “There’s a pace to this where if you blink a few more jobs have gone out the door and a few more things have changed.

“People in the public sector are really being hammered as part of the Government’s deficit reduction plans.

“It must feel quite frightening if you sit there within the county council not knowing where the axe is going to fall next.”

The scrutiny committee was told that the authority is on target to make this year’s planned savings of £42.5 million.

Over the next two years the council needs to make a further £50 million in cuts.

Liberal Democrat councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips, who represents the Hardwick division in Bury, said the council needed to be ‘more imaginative’ in the way it implements savings.

He said: “The county needs to look far harder at how it delivers services differently in a way that not only preserves jobs but also improves services.

“Salami slicing, which this is, is only part of the answer and we need to go much further and be more imaginative in the way we cut back because cutbacks can be done in ways which not only preserve public services but also jobs.”

Leading trade union Unison fears the redundancies will have a knock-on effect on the wider economy.

A spokesman said: “Suffolk’s economy simply cannot afford for this number of people to be added to the unemployment list and therefore become dependant on benefits.

“These redundancies are, in our opinion, the result of knee jerk reactions to the budget pressures and the forced implementation of ill-conceived ideas under the New Strategic Direction – plans which are still continuing without the NSD label.

The council’s deputy leader Jane Storey said: “Our efforts since 2005 to reduce the overall cost of running the organisation and make it more efficient are well known.

“As with many councils, that includes reducing staffing levels. The cost of paying redundancies needs to be weighed up against the cost of employing staff in the long term. We’ve made nearly £2 million worth of annual savings in senior management costs alone.”