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Frontline council jobs to be axed as cuts bite deeper

WORRIED ... union branch secretary Merv Butler.

WORRIED ... union branch secretary Merv Butler.

MORE than 30 frontline South Tyneside Council jobs are to be shed in a new bid to streamline services.

The council needs to cut 33 posts in the areas of housing services, community safety and street cleaning – reducing staff from 150 to 117.

It is hoped the majority of jobs will go through voluntary redundancies, redeployment and early retirement.

The plan is to establish a new streamlined housing and area management team to be overseen by South Tyneside Homes.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said the new approach was part of a bid to “deliver frontline services in the most efficient way possible”.

But Merv Butler, branch secretary with Unison South Tyneside – which is now in consultation over the changes – described them as “worrying”.

One employee affected by the switch said frontline services would “inevitably” be cut as a result.

Among the posts threatened are housing officers on various grades, tenant enforcement officers and community wardens and street cleaning managers, supervisors and workers. Coun Malcolm said: “In the face of unprecedented financial challenges, we have to continue to look at ways of delivering frontline services in the most efficient way possible, without compromising on quality.

“We’ve identified a range of housing, community safety and area management functions across South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes that would benefit from being integrated through one single organisation.

“The integration of street cleaning and estate maintenance functions will build on the highly successful Handy Estates pilot that has been in operation across the council and South Tyneside Homes since April 2013, and has received very positive feedback.

“We are confident that this new model will deliver an improved public service by concentrating our resources where there is a proven track record of expertise.”

He said: “We are very conscious that changes of this nature can be unsettling for the staff involved.

“We are doing all we can to minimise uncertainty and have already held a series of briefing sessions with affected members of staff and trade unions representatives.

“Consultation, including one-to-one sessions with affected staff, will be ongoing. While this review will result in an overall reduction in the number of posts, we will ensure that this impacts on staff as little as possible, through management of redeployment opportunities, early retirements and voluntary redundancy.”

Mr Butler said: “The public need to understand the implications of this, particularly in the area of community safety as it could see a reduction in the number of community wardens.

“It is very worrying. The council does have difficult decisions to make but we want to see frontline services protected and our members jobs maintained.

“They see this as the best way of doing this is by creating this new structure. We just hope they are right.”

Although pay protection is in place, one employee, a multi-skilled operative, told the Gazette he believes his salary would be reduced from £19,000 to £14,000 a year under the proposals.

He said: “I just couldn’t exist on that and would to have leave the authority.

“I’m already looking for a new job.

“It’s particularly upsetting because these are workers on the frontline who are dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis, not faceless back office staff

“Those frontline services will inevitably be reduced as a result.

“We feel we have been unfairly selected.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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