CROYDON IN CRISIS: Struggling to cut another £38m from its already trimmed spending, council chiefs’ response is to make more frontline workers redundant. By our Town Hall correspondent, KEN LEE
Croydon’s cash-strapped council is struggling to make the further multi-million-pound budget cuts necessary to satisfy the Whitehall mandarins who are overseeing the running of the bankrupt borough, as CEO Katherine Kerswell yesterday wrote to what’s left of her staff to reveal that dozens more jobs are to be axed.
According to sources at Fisher’s Folly, as many as 58 jobs are to go in this latest round of redundancies.
The £192,000 per year chief executive, who was parachuted into Fisher’s Folly in September 2020 initially as a temporary measure, has so far increased the number of executive director-level (now cunningly re-titled corporate directors) positions at the dysfunctional council, while around 500 frontline positions have already been cut or left unfilled since before the first covid lockdown.
Kerswell’s staff email was circulated just ahead of the publication of an official report for the budget-setting council cabinet meeting on December 6. For all the empty platitudes proffered by council leader Hamida “Apologetic” Ali in the accompanying press release, the report provides a series of strong indications that senior officials are struggling to make the £38.4million-worth of cuts required for 2022-2023.
Following the council declaring itself effectively bankrupt in November 2020, it received a massive government bail-out, but only on condition that its annual spend was much reduced.
This year (2021-2022), budget cuts of £44.7million have been identified, which Ali describes as “significant progress in tackling its financial challenges”, and claiming that the government and the improvement panel imposed to monitor Croydon’s work have both expressed “confidence in the council’s ability to deliver its renewal plans and improve the services it offers”.
That’s not necessarily the view of Richard Ennis, the council’s finance director (crisis-hit Croydon’s third in 12 months) who on Thursday night told councillors, “There’s a gap between savings identified and savings that are needed.”
In her email to staff yesterday, Kerswell provided all the usual vacuous managementspeak guff about how well the council and its staff are doing to “meet the challenges” on their “journey”.
But the hard truth is that a local authority that is already struggling to deliver even the most basic of services is set to cut more jobs.
“While we have sought to minimise job losses through deleting vacant posts, some staff posts will unfortunately be affected,” Kerswell wrote. By using “affected”, Kerswell was avoiding writing “made redundant”.
“Those who are directly affected will be spoken to their manager today.
“We have also met the trade unions and will keep them fully informed through the staff consultation period.” Which seems likely to run through Christmas, which will be nice.
In the press release issued from the Fisher’s Folly propaganda bunker last night, Hamida Ali was quoted as saying, “Putting the council on a sustainable financial footing will mean difficult decisions and like all councils we continue to be impacted by covid-19, economic uncertainty and rising demand for our services after a decade of government cuts.”
Ali also said, “While we have to save money, we will protect core services and focus on transforming our services, to ensure residents get full value for every penny spent.”
Given the latest round of job cuts, and Ennis’s publicly expressed reservations, there have to be some serious doubts about whether further budget cuts can be “sustainable”, or that core services will not be fundamentally undermined.
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