Jobs shake up at Ipswich council

A MAJOR restructuring of departments at a Suffolk council, which will lead to savings of £500,000 a year, has resulted in a number of senior managers taking early retirement.

By Graham Dines

A MAJOR restructuring of departments at a Suffolk council, which will lead to savings of £500,000 a year, has resulted in a number of senior managers taking early retirement.

Councillors in Ipswich, who are currently locked in a bitter war of words with Suffolk County Council over the borough's application to become an all-purpose unitary authority, ordered the shake-up to streamline service delivery to the public.

Entertainment, parks, and sport are being brought together to form leisure services while planning, strategic planning, transport and engineering are to be amalgamated.

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It will mean 27 management posts will be lost in the borough council's service directorates, and replaced with 10 top positions. This will also lead to an overhaul of lower tier posts.

The council's deputy leader John Carnall said: “These changes will protect frontline services by cutting management costs.

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“Residents expect, and deserve, an increasingly sophisticated system of service delivery and this top-level shake-up can produce more connectivity between services and provide greater accountability.”

He added that some long-serving managers were taking the option of early retirement.

Council leader Liz Harsant said the move had been planned for more than 18 months, long before Ipswich decided to seek unitary status to run its own affairs and break free from county council control.

“I can assure staff and residents that Ipswich is not going down the path that the county council is considering - of commercialising its services by allowing the private sector to run them - which could have major implications for the number of the employees,” she said.

Mrs Harsant said she deeply regretted Suffolk's decision to start “badmouthing” Ipswich over the borough's decision - which has cross-party support - to apply for unitary status.

“The invitation from the Government was there and because we feel we can reduce costs by running education and social care, Ipswich has decided that our population will be better off if we are independent of the county.”

Suffolk council leader Jeremy Pembroke said a separate Ipswich authority “will add further cost and add further bureaucracy”.

The borough's capacity to deal with financial restraint “will be less than ours and frontline services will inevitably suffer”.

His deputy, Sue Sida-Lockett, went further. “The borough's business case simply doesn't stack up. Is this because they have chosen to turn a blind eye to financial realities, or is it because they can't do their sums?

“The fact is, a unitary Ipswich would be too small to be financially viable. It would not have the critical mass to drive out the scale of savings needed in the future and pay for the costs of reorganisation. The inevitable consequence will be big cuts in service and council tax increases for the people of Ipswich.”

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