Union highlights fall in staff numbers at East Anglia’s local authorities

Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

The fall in the number of people employed directly by councils across East Anglia has been highlighted by the GMB union – showing that the number has fallen by near 80,000 in the last seven years.

Suffolk and Essex County Councils are near the top of that list. Suffolk’s directly-employed staff numbers have fallen from 28,323 to 15,030 while Essex’s numbers fell from 41,822 to 23,197.

However those figures mask changes in the way many jobs are now classified.

The figures include school staff. In 2010 almost all state-run schools came under local authorities and their staff were formally on the county council payroll.

Now an increasing number are academies or free schools and are not part of the council and do not show up in its statistics.

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Also several county council departments have been transferred to separate companies, some of which are owned by the authority.

In Suffolk the libraries have been transferred to a social enterprise company while the county’s facility management department and architects departments have been turned into council-owned companies that seek outside contracts as well as working for the authority itself.

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Jane Storey, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council said: “Over the last seven years the council has explored alternative service delivery models to improve efficiency of the services we provide, for example staff being transferred or divested to other organisations, as well as a significant number of schools converting into Academies”

“Savings have also been made by merging some council services. Since 2010 we have saved more than £230m.

“The figures in Suffolk reflect a national trend of reduced government funding over a number of years.”

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin was leader of the opposition Labour group on the authority for eight years before being elected to the House of Commons in June.

He said: “Many of those who were employed by the county council are now employed by different organisations but are effectively still doing the same thing for the county.

“I am sure they would prefer to still be directly employed by the county because that gave them more security and more job guarantees – but the important thing is that they still have a job.”

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