Suffolk: County Council’s job cuts mystery

THE DEPUTY leader of Suffolk County Council last night denied the authority was planning to outsource more than 26,000 jobs – despite an official report revealing the figure being discovered by the EADT.

Jane Storey moved to dismiss the report which stated the authority would be left with between 500 and 700 staff after it has divested a raft of services to other organisations which it has traditionally provided.

She was speaking as chief executive Andrea Hill and council leader Jeremy Pembroke were last night preparing to outline the progess of the New Strategic Direction (NSD) at a briefing at Endeavour House today.

But Liberal Democrat Andrew Cann has criticised the council for denying what he believes to be the true figure being used to brief staff and voluntary organisations.

The report, shown to the EADT and prepared for the Suffolk Learning Disability Partnership Board, states: “The council will become smaller and will have a smaller group of core staff (between 500-700 staff instead of the 27,000 people it currently employs).”

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Under the NSD, the biggest shake-up of public services in the county for decades, Suffolk County Council plans to “redesign the way public services are delivered”, outsourcing services and jobs to the voluntary sector, charities, businesses and social enterprises. The leaked figures come just weeks after chief executive of Suffolk County Council Andrea Hill stated in an interview with The Guardian: “The headlines have been very misleading. So let me first dispel the myths:

“1. We are not outsourcing all our services to the private sector.

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“2. We are not reducing the council to 200-500 staff.

“3. We are not planning a council that meets to let contracts.”

Last night, Mrs Storey also said the figures were incorrect and the result of rumour and myths circulating around the council.

She said it was “disappointing” to see senior staff quoting the figures and said those responsible for compiling the report have been told of their inaccuracy.

“I am not sure where they have got that figure from,” she said. “The figure is incorrect because we don’t know what the figure is going to be. There are a number of different figures being bandied around.

“We are not going to outsource absolutely everything.”

While denying the council would end up employing just 200 people, Mrs Storey refused to comment on what the correct figure would be.

“The NSD is still being worked on, it is a work in progress, there is so much work to be done,’’ she said.

“We know we have got to make 30% savings over the next four years.

“It is bound to happen that until we come out with a specific figure people are going to try to work it out for themselves. But they are adding two and two together and making 500.

“The number of people employed by the county council will vary.

“What we need to do is be flexible, sometimes we will need more staff, sometimes less.”

But Mr Cann accused the council of denying the figure in light of public reaction to the NSD.

He said: “I want to know why the county council is denying the rumour that has been the case for a long time now, that it is planning to reduce the number of staff to around 500.

“That is what the council has been saying to people. The document was written by a very senior officer who is clearly in the know and has used it to brief staff and voluntary organisations.

“But because of the public reaction in Suffolk now they are denying that is the case. I believe the figures are correct.”

He added: “What is shocking, if it is true and I believe it to be so, it proves the new strategic direction is an ideological one and that the county council is determined not to provide any services itself.

“Whilst it is true some services can be offered more effectively by the voluntary sector, I think the services must be looked at on a case by case basis and should not be ideologically driven.”

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