Wednesday, December 7, 2016

News: Council reveals redundancy numbers in face of further budget cuts

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Rotherham Council are predicting a number of redundancies as it estimates that between 1,000 and 1,200 posts will be deleted from now to 2020 as it makes £40m in savings.

People are being asked for their views on how the authority proposes to save £13m from its budget over the next financial year. This is in addition to the Council making savings of £138m and reducing its workforce by over 1,500 staff, since 2010.

A report to the Council's Staffing Committee explains that "Given the proportion of net costs which relate to employees it is inevitable that a significant proportion of these savings will come from employee costs.

"Currently agreed plans and proposals under consideration, for 2017/18, mean that up to 166 posts are expected to be deleted in the next year. Estimates for the period to 2020 are between 1,000 and 1,200 posts.

"The Workforce Strategy identifies a reduction of at least 1,000 full time equivalent (fte) posts by 2020/21. Whilst some of these reductions will be mitigated, it is inevitable that a significant number of redundancies will result from these changes."

When a post is deleted it is not redundant. It may lead to an employee being at risk of redundancy. For 17/18, there are a significant number of vacant posts which may be used to offset the impact of the proposals. The budget proposals for 2016/17 originally included a potential for the loss of 180 fte posts for 2017/18 but this has been revised down to 90.8 fte.

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If an employer envisages changes that may result in redundancies they are required to notify the relevant Government department. An employer is required by employment law to enter into consultation with trade unions on proposed or potential redundancies "in good time." Where more than 100 redundancies are envisaged consultation must be for not less than 45 days and the consultation must be undertaken with a view to reaching agreement – although there is no requirement to agree.

The council is to decide whether to consult on the proposals for 2017/18 or for the next three years combined.

The GMB union in Rotherham has been critical of the authority going straight to employees and not the unions when discussing potential savings. Rotherham Council has formally notified the GMB of the proposed cuts to terms and conditions totalling £2m which includes a Christmas shut down for all employees with three days unpaid, equating to a pay cut of 1.15%. Another proposal includes the removal of lieu day for employees who work on bank holidays.

In September, the GMB rejected the proposals and refused to enter into negations. Failing agreement with trade unions, the Council could impose the cuts by way of Termination and Re-engagement.

Workforce costs currently constitute approximately 60% of net revenue in the Council.

The Council's budget for 2016/17 is £217m and is made up of £89 million Council Tax, £63m Business Rates and £65m Government funding.

Potential savings being considered relating to regeneration and the environment include a further increase in business centre charges, reducing Rotherham Economic Regeneration Funding, reducing the town centre cleansing team by 1 fte, potential property savings, reviewing the Leisure PFI contract, prioritising bookings for profitable events at the civic theatre, and raising revenue through environmental enforcement - including the increased use of fixed penalty notices.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "We're setting out detailed proposals for the Council's budget in 2017/18 and want to give residents the chance to comment on, challenge them and contribute other ideas.

"We face further difficult choices for 2017/18 due to yet another reduction in funding from Government, and increasing costs for the Council in providing services.

"Within the next three years, we'll be almost entirely dependent on council tax and business rates income, so we need to support the local economy and ensure that there are private sector jobs for local people. Without that, we won't be able to continue to fund the public services that people depend on.

"The majority of the Council's budget is spent on the most vulnerable: the elderly, those with learning difficulties and disabilities, and of course the most vulnerable children. And as people in Rotherham would expect we’re continuing to prioritise investment in our Children's Services.

"At the same time, we're keeping our commitment to do what we can to protect basic street cleaning and environmental services that we know communities value.

"But over the coming years the Council will continue to shrink, delivering services differently to how it's been in the past. We will use fewer buildings, be more efficient - and we will simply have to do less."

Saving proposals and medium term funding strategies are already being scrutinised by councillors and commissioners. The formal public consultation period for the Budget closes on January 3 2017.

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC


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