Croydon’s leadership demonstrated just how cynical they can be on Monday night with a set of proposals which one Council employee characterised as “throwing people on to the scrap heap with just a few crumbs”.
Just ahead of the final Council meeting before the summer recess, with attention focused on their proposals to cut funding to local charity groups, the Conservative-controlled hierarchy slipped out a notice on their internal messaging system, and then handed out a press release to the local hacks at the meeting, announcing its intention to make significant cuts in Croydon staff’s redundancy and other employment terms.
Once Mike “I’m not in this to be popular” Fisher and his Tory-run Council manage to bulldoze through the change in employment terms for the staff, they can be expected to wield the axe to pubic service jobs across the borough, too.
The moves will be firmly opposed by the unions, and it means that Croydon will be at the centre of prolonged industrial action into the winter.
One employee, speaking confidentially for fear of being targeted by Council management, told Inside Croydon: “It is a pernicious and cynical attack, knowing that attention will be on the voluntary sector cuts. This Council meeting was the last big meeting before recess – so this timing is done deliberately.
“This is about smashing the workforce, as the savings are less than £2 million a year – about the same as they are spending on their Step Change pet project, which seems to consist of about five consultants from the likes of PriceWaterhouseCoopers who are on something like £2,500 a day.
“Steve O’Connell is racking up £118,000 a year while he is throwing other people on the scrapheap with nothing more than a few crumbs.”
Unlike most London boroughs, under its long-term agreement with staff, Croydon only pays the statutory minimum redundancy rates. But under the existing agreement there is no cap to the number of weeks service that count towards an employee’s redundancy package.
Under the proposals from Croydon’s chief executive Jon Rouse, the Council is offering less reductions in the rates of payment for those who take voluntary redundancy. The difference for those who take voluntary redundancy against the terms for those made redundant compulsorily, according to our source, could amount to as much as £300 per week for some longer serving employees.
“This has a huge impact on older people in particular who have long service – particularly when the chance of getting another job is slim,” our disgruntled insider told Inside Croydon.
According to the latest Council figures (look at page 32 of this document), Rouse last year took home a total package of £246,810 as Croydon CEO, including a pension contribution alone of £43,161, itself around double the average annual salary of a Croydon employee.
Council employees have already been told that they face a two-year pay freeze under the Con-Dem Government’s “We all in this together” strategy.
Meanwhile, Rouse is expected to take a 3 per cent cut in his salary – or less than £7,000 a year. We asked Rouse’s office for the exact figure, but they would not could not provide us with the detail.
His elected Tory bosses on the Council, as we well know, have just approved hikes in their allowances of up to 33 per cent.
Now Rouse also wants to cut his staff’s holiday entitlement from 33 days a year to 30, and is proposing a severe cut in sick pay entitlements.
Overtime, car allowances and service tenancies (for caretaking staff) are also being cut.
Characteristically, Fisher says the proposals are “tough measures for tough times”.
The local unions have issued a joint statement that effectively says that it is not a matter of “if” they take industrial action, but “when”.
The statement said, “The initial reaction from our members is that they are asking when some form of industrial action will take place – such is the mood felt with the proposals.
“Given the current pay freeze, our recent extra increased contribution to the local government pension scheme, plus the 1 per cent increase of National Insurance we feel the proposals are unfair, unwarranted and would not prevent redundancies.
“Why should we agree to altering terms and conditions when we have been told even with these changes redundancies will follow?”
It appears that we will be facing a summer of strife across south London, with a range of protest rallies already planned in Lewisham and Lambeth.