Council job losses 'not ruled out'

COMPULSORY redundancies cannot yet be ruled out at a Suffolk council where consultants are being drafted in to improve efficiency – at a cost of £95,000.

By Sarah Chambers

COMPULSORY redundancies cannot yet be ruled out at a Suffolk council where consultants are being drafted in to improve efficiency – at a cost of £95,000.

Four key people are already set to leave Suffolk Coastal District Council, and it is hoped if any other jobs need to go, they would be lost through natural wastage, early retirements and voluntary redundancies.

A major review of the council is under way to see how it could operate more efficiently.

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The overall strategy is towards a thinning out of the management structure with fewer directors and services being consolidated around fewer heads of service. The council has identified possible savings of between £550,000 and £830,000.

Councillors have given the go-ahead for bringing in consultants in three areas, each on six-month contracts, at a total cost of £95,000.

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One is a strategic human resources consultant, the other is an information systems consultant and the third is a contract with Carole Madden Associates – which has been undertaking the major review of services.

The company is due to unveil a blueprint for future organisational make-up of the council in the next few months.

Council leader Ray Herring said the idea was to give directors more of a strategic role, and push decision-making down the line, as well as making processes more efficient.

"It's measured restructuring really with a view to reducing management costs. It's only one part of what we are doing. I can't guarantee that we won't have compulsory redundancies but at the moment that's not the intention," he said.

The aim was to keep down council tax, and the job losses were being managed through voluntary redundancies, early retirement and natural wastage, he explained.

"We have got a budget situation to deal with, and people are well aware of the impact on council tax payers and we are trying to minimise that as much as possible," he said.

"Whenever you face tough decisions like that not everybody is over the moon about it. It's a bit unsettling for staff at the moment but we are trying to minimise that period as best we can," said Cllr Herring.

Yesterday it was revealed who would be leaving the Woodbridge-based local authority.

Deborah Robinson, the head of environmental services, and Prue Denton, head of personnel, will leave on Friday along with chief executive Tom Griffin, whose decision to take early retirement was recently announced. Another head of service is due to leave at the end of the year but the name has yet to be released.

Mrs Denton will be taking early retirement and Mrs Robinson, who has been with the council for 13 years, will be going into consultancy.

In the Estates Team, one person has taken voluntary redundancy and another has retired early. In the Economic Development department a review of the staffing structure will save £20,000 a year.

Meanwhile, a substantial increase in car parking fees and higher charges for using leisure services and renting beach huts could be introduced to raise extra money for the cash-strapped council.

Suffolk Coastal has warned that drivers could have to pay more to park their car in the district after a period during which charges remained static.

It is also considering a review of beach hut sites to establish if some could be upgraded to a premier status and attract a higher rent.

Peter Collicott, director of finance, warned that local authority finances have been under significant pressure for many years.

"Although total Government financial support has increased at a higher rate in the last few years, this increase has fallen short of the pressures for increased spending arising from pay and price increases," he said.

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