Anger as council staff 'loaned out'

A TAXPAYERS' group attacked an Essex council last night after it emerged some employees were working for another authority in a bid to avoid having to make them redundant.

Annie Davidson

A TAXPAYERS' group attacked an Essex council last night after it emerged some employees were working for another authority in a bid to avoid having to make them redundant.

Planning officers at Colchester Borough Council who have not had enough work to do have been redeployed to neighbouring Babergh District Council to work on the Sudbury town centre masterplan.

Bosses said the move was to avoid making people redundant but it has angered a council watchdog which said the council should be working to save money and in turn pass it on to families struggling during the credit crunch.


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Announcing the scheme, Colchester Borough Council's portfolio holder for planning and regeneration, Lyn Barton, said it made sense to share expertise across the region and to work with colleagues in neighbouring authorities.

She added: “It is important that we maximise efforts to avoid redundancies, as well as utilise core skills and increase our already substantial portfolio.”

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But Susie Squire, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for “lower tax and better Government”, said yesterday: “Taxpayers in Colchester don't pay sky-high rates to see their council staff moved to other regions.

“If a department no longer needs such a large capacity, efficiency cuts should be made and the resultant savings passed on to taxpayers.

“Now more than ever, councils should be working hard to relieve the financial burden on families struggling in the credit crunch, not creating additional work to justify bloated payrolls.”

Colchester Borough Council's resources and business portfolio holder, Paul Smith, said last night that the decision could actually save money because it avoided large redundancy pay-outs.

He said the work with Babergh was giving the planners something productive to do and added others had been seconded to the regeneration team as a result of the downturn.

“The idea is to avoid redundancy costs because those costs can be very expensive,” he said.

“This time last year we were short of planners, it is highly skilled job. Now the economy has gone into recession and there has been a downturn do you get rid of them and have to hire them back in six or 12 months' time or whenever the economy gets better?

“If someone has worked for the council for 15 or 20 years they would get a very good package and we could be hiring them back in three months' time. Now that would be a waste of taxpayers' money.”

Mr Smith added: “Hopefully when good times are there our staff will remember Colchester council are a very good employer and have a good record of avoiding making people redundant.

“A lot of people are losing their jobs at the moment without the council adding to it if it can be avoided.”

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