Croydon Council yesterday launched another round of voluntary redundancies, as it tries to balance the Town Hall budget from a £3.5 million overspend.
Some estimates suggest as many as 600 more council jobs may need to go. The budget short-fall will surely make inevitable a 1.9per cent Council Tax increase from April – likely to yield an additional £1.5 million from residents who receive ever-diminishing services.
The council’s hard-pressed staff have endured annual culls for more than five years under the six-figure-salaried chief executives Jon Rouse and, more recently, Nathan Elvery, who continues to preside over a failure for which he is principally responsible. The 2015 edition of job cuts was announced yesterday through an unsigned missive via the somewhat remote council intranet system, and comes just in time for Christmas. All staff will have also received an email from Elvery.
As well as the redundancies, there is to be a council recruitment freeze, at least until April.
Under the heading “This year’s budget – message for all staff”, the intranet announcement stated: “As you know, we are facing a hugely challenging time as a council with cuts to our grant from government and increasing demand for our services. We remain committed to providing our residents with the best possible outcomes within the resources available.
“As an organisation we need to save a predicted £100 million from our budget over the next three financial years up to 2018-2019. The Croydon Challenge…” the title given by the council’s hierarchy to the programme of cuts and job losses, “… continues to contribute to the savings that we must find – identifying and delivering solutions and streamlining processes.”
Note that: the council, that is Elvery, says, “identifying and delivering solutions and streamlining processes”, when in fact they mean cutting services and handing out redundancy notices. George Orwell would be so proud.
The announcement continued: “This year’s budget included over £25 million of savings including a significant contribution from the Croydon Challenge programme. We have also experienced cuts to our funding since our budget was set, these include Public Health, CALAT and our Asylum Seekers grant.” This latter cut alone, made by Tory Home Secretary Theresa May, is reckoned to be worth £4million to our council, and has come just at a time when local services are groaning under the strain of additional demand from refugees arriving from Syria and Afghanistan.
The council intranet message then said: “This alongside continued increases in demand has led to a position where we are forecasting an overspend of £3.5 million. Despite a number of actions put in place earlier in the year this is not improving. This means that further measures are being put in place to ensure that the overspend is reduced as much as possible.
“The following additional measures will now be put in to place for the rest of the financial year and have been agreed by the Leader and Cabinet.
1. Recruitment pause – we will postpone the recruitment or engagement of interim, permanent and fixed term posts until April 2016.
2. Launch of council-wide voluntary severance programme to take effect 29 February 2016.
3. Review of agency resource – including requests for extension of assignments and a review of all long term agency/interims (over 12 months) with a target for arrangements over 12 months duration to end by the end of December 2015.
4. Further review of fees and charges increases in year.
5. Acceleration of review of top 50 families in People department led by Mark Fowler, director of gateway services to report opportunities for cost reduction by mid-December.
6. Increase care placement controls and challenge in adult social care
“All these actions are designed to reduce our revenue overspend in this year and to help our challenge for future years.”
The announcement continued to go into some detail, explaining how the “severance scheme”, initially voluntary, works.
“The scheme is open to all non-school permanent staff and aims to provide the best possible outcomes for staff who are thinking of changing their employment, retiring or making a career change. It is an important initiative in helping us to make the necessary changes to help us meet the financial challenge that we face.”
And ensures even worse provision of services from our local authority.
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