The council’s hard-pressed children’s services department is among the first to lay-off staff, despite assurances from the council leader, while exec directors, on six-figure salaries, have escaped redundancy.
STEVEN DOWNES reports
Council staff, some of whom have been given notice of redundancy, are furious with their employers and the council’s Labour leader Tony Newman, after it was claimed that job cuts were necessary “to protect frontline services”.
Staff who have been in contact with Inside Croydon this week say that frontline services, including the borough’s hard-pressed children’s services department, are in fact among the first to suffer cuts.
Croydon is the first local authority in the country to start making job cuts, it says because of the financial pressures caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
On Monday, the council began the process of handing out at least 175 redundancy notices, it says because of a £65million shortfall in its budget for the year caused by covid-19. The job cuts are part of a 15 per cent cut in all council spending. More than 400 jobs and posts are expected to be axed, that number possibly reaching 500 by the end of the process.
But staff are convinced that covid is being used as an excuse for deeper problems, and incompetence, among the council’s leadership.
“The rhetoric is that redundancies are needed because of the debts due to covid-19,” one council worker told this website, on condition of anonymity.
“We know that this is not completely true and there has been mismanagement prior to this. Croydon’s huge debt was well-known before the coronavirus emergency.”
This week, standing on the steps of the Town Hall, Newman told BBC London, “My job as the leader of this council is to make sure we protect those vital frontline services that sadly more and more people will be depending on.
“And that’s why we’ve got to make some tough decisions around some of ur staff numbers to reduce the cost base of the council, to make sure there is a council here in Croydon in the months and years ahead to provide those services.”
Staff and union officials say that the reality is different: cutting through Newman’s waffle, they say that what the council leader told the BBC was simply not true.
“The job cuts will not save public services, since it’s actually frontline workers, ‘keyworkers’, who are in scope for redundancy,” the council staffer said.
“I never thought I would see the day in my career in social work with this borough that I would be at risk of losing my job. It’s absolutely outrageous. The council has been cutting locum, temporary social work posts since January, and now it’s the permanent social workers across children’s services and adult services whose jobs are at risk, plus other staff.
“The impact on remaining staff, services and Croydon people will be disastrous,” said the council insider.
The council’s children’s services department has only just emerged with a “good” rating from Ofsted after nearly three years in special measures, following a highly critical inspection which found that some children and young adults in the council’s care were at serious risk of harm.
At the core of the problems was under-staffing, with not enough social workers to deal with an enormous caseload. This has only been put right after the council threw millions – at least £25million over two years – at improving recruitment and retention. Now, it seems, the lessons from the 2017 Ofsted inspection have already been forgotten.
Another angry council insider said, “The frontline council workers are being made to pay with their jobs and livelihoods, It will all come crashing down when there is no one left to deliver essential council services that Council Tax-payers pay for!”
Union officials within the council can barely contain their fury that, under a supposedly Labour-run authority, it is their members who are to suffer most, while the exec directors in Fisher’s Folly, some of whom earn in one month what some of the council’s lowest-paid receive in a year, appear immune from any cuts.
“The greater burden is going to fall on the poorly paid people in very low grades, many of whom are often black or women,” one union rep said.
“This is caused by the fat-cat senior management and directors who have run the council badly and continue to deceive.
“The shame is the councillors don’t seem able to control these out-of-control and incompetent directors. Shame all round!”
It is a view held by others who face losing their jobs, some after many years’ service.
“We were originally told that staff across all grades and levels will be affected, but this is not the case,” a council staffer said. “No one from the ‘Executive Leadership Team’ is going or has even made a gesture to sacrifice part of their huge salaries that could save the jobs of frontline keyworkers.
“We are told ‘thank you’ for all the hard work people have done during the difficult months of covid-19 and that we should all ‘support one another’. Now it’s ‘sorry you’ve lost your job’. We’re sick of being patronised. It’s absolutely appalling.
“I’m sure the country would be outraged if frontline NHS keyworkers were to face losing their jobs right now, as is happening to us.”
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