Councils ‘demonised’ says boss

COUNCIL employees in St Edmundsbury have been warned they may be “demonised” for working in the public sector as spending cuts bite.

Geoff Rivers, chief executive of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said staff may bear the brunt of the public’s anger at cutbacks – and also said job losses could not be ruled out following last week’s budget.

He said the authority was facing “difficult times” and that “fundamental” changes would have to be made in the wake of the emergency Government budget last Tuesday.

In a memo, Mr Rivers and John Griffiths, leader of the council, issued a plea for employees to continue to work together to cut costs. “The Budget will take some analysing, so we are not going to jump to quick conclusions,” they said.

“There’s a pattern just now of ‘demonising’ those who work for the public sector, and councils in particular. These are difficult times but we encourage you to continue taking pride in working for an excellent council, delivering excellent services.”

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The bosses said they had known for many months that councils faced an extremely tough financial future.

They added every area of the organisation would be scrutinised to find possible savings.

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“We will need to look at making fundamental changes to the way we deliver many of our services and working patterns,” they said.

“You only have to follow the national news to see we cannot, hand on heart, categorically state there will be no redundancies.

“You will not be surprised to know that every area, every service will be scrutinised in the coming weeks and months to see whether they are giving value for money or whether there are better, cheaper ways of doing things.”

In the e-mail sent last week, the pair said council tax would be frozen for a year from April 2011, with the extra funds being used to keep council costs down.

Public sector workers earning more than �21,000 a year will have their pay frozen for two years while those earning less than �21,000 will get a flat rise worth �250 in both years.

“We would like to remind you that St Edmundsbury is not a ‘knee-jerk’ council, making panic reactions,” the letter read.

“We will be making decisions on future finances in a carefully thought out, planned manner with consultations along the way with staff, Unison [the public service union] and residents.”

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