Housing staff start strike action over latest council job cuts

One of the biggest trades unions representing staff working in the borough has warned Croydon Council that it risks making a bad situation worse if it goes ahead with plans to impose widespread job cuts in its already stretched housing and homelessness department.

Excess Croydon: the council’s housing department is shut for two days

Around 50 staff, members of the GMB union, walked out of council offices this morning on the first day of a two-day strike over “severe concerns” around safeguarding and keeping their service remaining legally compliant.

Strike action was called after the overwhelming backing from 94per cent of GMB members.

Croydon’s housing department has been at the centre of national controversy since TV reports in 2021 exposed the appalling state of some council flats in blocks on Regina Road in South Norwood.

The cash-strapped council wants to axe 26 posts from the department, equivalent to 18 redundancies.

The job cuts come despite Conservative Mayor Jason Perry imposing a 15per cent Council Tax hike on the borough in April.

“Our members are frontline workers and know what the service needs – yet senior managers that have been in post less than 18 months are trying to force through this absolute farce of a restructure,” said the GMB’s Rachael Baylis.

Baylis said that council managers are “totally ignoring” union members as they force through the cost-cutting measures. The union says that included in the plans are proposals that will axe some services that actually generate income for the bankrupt borough.

“Our members feel as though they’re being set up to fail,” Baylis said.

“Council housing workers often get the blame when things go wrong but should this current restructure continue, any failings land squarely at the door of Croydon Council. They have been warned.”

Not listening: Jason Perry, Croydon’s £82,000 per year Mayor

The union has accused council leaders, including Mayor Jason Perry and chief exec Katherine Kerswell, of ignoring a collective grievance signed by 80 staff. Perry and Kerswell have been “deliberately evasive”, the union says, with meeting minutes being “lost” and formal questions failing to receive responses.

“Croydon Council are totally failing our members and all service users in this botched restructure,” Baylis said.

“Croydon have failed to meet their legal requirements to consult throughout this process and it has unfortunately left our members feeling that they have no option but to take strike action.”

One member of staff said that management in their department had created a “hostile environment”.

The council issued a statement which claimed that they are “transforming our housing service” and that the job cuts will “provide the best and most efficient service for our residents, whilst also [making] our council financially sustainable for the future”.

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11 Responses to Housing staff start strike action over latest council job cuts

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    Why is it that those who say we have to save money always cut frontline staff instead of cutting senior managers salaries?

    Which is more important, staff delivering services or paying their bosses over £100,000 a year?

    • Leslie Parry says:

      In principle I agree I also think politicians allowances and remuneration should have a 50% cut. But the Homeless Team including staff have performed poorly compared to other London Boroughs

    • According to multiple sources within the council, we long ago reached a stage where middle and senior manager numbers, less affected by the staff cuts – which began long before 2020 – now are responsible for sometimes half the staff they once managed, while on the same or even improved salaries.

      Katherine Kerswell, the chief executive parachuted into Croydon in the autumn of 2020 to deal with the carnage left behind by Jo Negreedy, now has more six-figure salaried executive directors working for her in what used to be called the “executive leadership team” than even Negrini managed dueing her five years of empire-building.

    • Sarah Bird says:

      Well said. Given the independent very critical reports into the Council endless failings in numerous departments to include the Housing department, I am at a complete loss to understand ,what the very highly paid managers and directors are actually employed to do . Many have been in situ ,(as are many of the councilors) for years. Yet to see any change whatsoever from the Council despite very damming reports Enough is enough of the ineptitude of the senior staff. The junior staff act on instructions. Surely the senior positions must be considered at all levels?.

  2. David White says:

    We are now seeing almost every day examples of how the cuts brought in by Mayor Perry are affecting residents and Council staff. And residents have already been hit by a 15% Council Tax rise. Instead of inflicting these horrors on the people he’s supposed to represent Mayor Perry should be pressing Government to write off Croydon’s debt and restore the cuts that have been made in grant funding (75% since 2010).

    • Graham Axford says:

      Just remember it was Newman and his cronies that created this problem, ignoring advice again and again.
      Just for their own glorification..

      • Ian Terry says:

        The Newman era has a lot to answer for, but half the debt was run up before Newman became leader in 2014. The council has been incompetently managed for 15 years or more – and cuts from central government have made the situation worse

  3. Lewis White says:

    It would be a really useful thing to get a games modeller down who can use “Sim City”. And maybe to have an artificially intelligent robot standing by to do the maths.

    Not a gamer myself, if that game still exists, I understand that it allows the player to become City Manager. In control of everthing from adult care, registry of births and deaths, cems and crems, all-years education, to parks and playgrounds, road signs and repairs,sewer, trees and youth.

    Then, start modelling–with prices– for each service, each school and each park, each road, library etc etc.

    Add in facts like– if we invest in that now, it will save £ xx then.

    Press the button, Hey presto ! A read out showing what it would cost if done properly.

    My guess is that if the whole Borough were ,modeled like that, it would be found that the budget would need to be increased to what it was 25 years ago, in real terms.
    Pre Austerity . Was it “Prudence” then?

  4. Michelle Offen says:

    Housing staff maybe treated poorly but tbh the whole of Croydon council is a farce. They need staff who understand equality especially with disabilities. They need to stop paying such high wages to managers who aren’t doing their job and get people who can actually support their staff to support the people who actually are in need. My personal circumstances maybe making me more judgemental but I’ve been fighting since my son was 4 and diagnosed with autism to get him his own room but according to staff at the housing department and the gp who isn’t qualified in autism or even met my son, he can share a room at now 15 with his 14 year old sister. He has no sanctuary of his own away from her except when she’s not indoors. Housing are complaining about cutting staff but their not serving the disabilities community at all

  5. Moyagordon says:

    It’s good to see public sector workers speaking up about issues affecting their work. They need to speak up more often when they see the quality of service they’re delivering isn’t what it should be even when there is a bullying culture as seen in the past. Regina Road residents needed council staff to speak up about the poor service those residents were receiving.

  6. Lewis White says:

    It’s not that easy to speak out when you need the job, need the salary, and get bullied or blamed for speaking up, or saying the things that others are thinking. Only when there is collective power via the Union, can people safely get together without being regarded as a trouble maker.

    Individuals can suffer a long time unless they have the protection of the Union.
    When the chips are down, most people need a stronger force that their own resources.

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