Why pennies do matter

The best way to start a blog is often with a cliche. Look after the pennies, we are told, however contrast this to the claim often thrown at those in opposition – you’re missing the big picture. Can you do both? Of course – anyone who decides to forgo their small indulgences in favour of saving for a house, a car, a holiday is doing just that. So why the brickbats when a councillor suggests a bit of care with small budgets?

One of the first blogs I ever wrote focused on my confusion as a new councillor at the amount of letters I get from in response to emails I’ve sent. Why can’t you email me back? I appreciate that some things have to be sent as a letter – but the ultimate snub surely to cost effectiveness is to say that one letter to one person won’t break the budget, as I have been told recently by one organisation in response to a Freedom of Information request I made. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Shaking Up The Directorates

Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced to their staff on Wednesday (1 September) that the directorates & heads of service were being reviewed, restructured and that there would be reductions.

14 of the 37 directors & heads of service will not be required under the new structure and could be made redundant.

Documents seen by Pits n Pots show that

2 corporate directors will be lost with an annual saving of £246,000
12 heads of service will be lost with an annual saving of £1,087,000

giving the actual saving of these 14 posts as £1,333,000 annually.

The documents go on to say that:

it is currently unclear as to the scale of redundancy costs to the council.

The document details the redundancy package as

*Age during year = 22 or under, 0.5 weeks actual pay per full year of service
*Age during year = 22 or above but less than 41, 1 weeks’ actual pay per full year of service
*Age during year = 41 or over, 1.5 weeks actual pay per full year of service up to a maximum of 30 weeks.

The Redundancy Modification Payments Order will be used to calculate any redundancy payments. This ensures continuous service from other public bodies is counted.

It is not made clear as to whether Directors & heads of service will be made redundant under these terms or whether they are subject to different severance packages such as the one which allowed Interim Chief Executive Chris Harman to leave in October 2009 with a £74,000 payout. So the true cost saving will be somewhat lower in the first year.

The document then gives details of the 4 new directorates and the Chief Executives Support.

People – Director of Children and Young People’s Services
Assistant Director ““ Learning Services
Assistant Director ““ Integration Services
Assistant Director ““ Children and Corporate Parenting
Assistant Director ““ Policy, Planning and Strategic Support

People – Director of Adult and Neighbourhood Services
Assistant Director ““ Social Care
Assistant Director ““ Commissioning and Innovation
Assistant Director ““ Neighbourhood, Engagement and Partnerships
Assistant Director ““ Housing Services

Place ““ Director of City Renewal
Assistant Director ““ City Regeneration
Assistant Director ““ Business Development
Assistant Director ““ City Services
Assistant Director ““ Technical Services

Central Administration – Director of Business Services
Assistant Director ““ Finance and Performance
Assistant Director ““ Business Technology
Assistant Director ““ Governance and Legal Services
Assistant Director ““ Procurement Services
Assistant Director ““ Member Services

Chief Executive Support
Assistant Director ““ HR and Transformation
Assistant Director ““ Communications

The 11 page document give an insight in to the reasons for the need to change quoting a staff survey

The survey also identified that staff are unhappy with the current leadership arrangements and direction of travel for the organisation. Therefore a review of existing arrangements has been undertaken and the need for the following has been identified:

  • improved focus on customer service
  • improved leadership
  • improved communication
  • improved strategic focus
  • accountability for service delivery from executive roles
  • improved business management which is cost effective

It seems that this is not going to be a long drawn out process either, according to the document the timetable is

1 September – Proposals issued to affected staff and (Union/s) for consultation
15 September – Deadline job skills and competency templates to be received for Director and Assistant Director posts to be placed.
30 September – Formal consultation ends. Deadline for receiving jobs skills and competency templates back for Assistant Director posts
1 October – Subject to results of consultation, commence implementing proposals including placing staff formally at risk
31 December – Redundancies effective
4 January 2010 – New structure in place and operational

4 January 2011 also happens to be exactly 1 year since John van de Laarschot started in his role at Chief Executive.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council asking for voluntary redundancies

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have today announced that they are inviting staff to say if they would like to be considered for voluntary redundancy.

The council is seeking between 370 and 430 redundancies this financial year. This number will potentially allow the council to spread the costs of the redundancies over several years. Staff are being briefed today and are being asked first to submit an “expression of interest” in voluntary redundancy. If enough people come forward the voluntary redundancy proposals will be submitted to the council’s cabinet for approval on 28 October.

If they go ahead, this number of redundancies would save around £2m this financial year and £10m in the 2010/11 year. It would be in addition to other measures already being taken to meet a predicted shortfall in this year’s budget of between £10m and £15m.

Formal estimates of redundancy payments would then be provided to staff before they are asked to take a final decision. When the numbers of potential volunteers are known it will be possible to estimate the potential impact on finances and services. The expression of interest is being addressed to around 6,000 council staff and does not include any staff who are managed by schools.

At the same time the council is continuing to identify other areas of savings, including:

  • a recruitment freeze,
  • reviewing the purchase of supplies and services;
  • reducing the use of consultants, interims and agency staff

Councillor Kieran Clarke, cabinet member for resources, said: “Our finances, like those of many councils, have been hit hard by the recession. Demand for services has gone up, while our income from fees, charges and interest on investments has gone down. We also know we will be affected by the severe constraints on public spending in future years. We must urgently reduce expenditure now in order to balance our books by the end of the financial year and prepare for reduced spending in future years. At this stage we are simply gauging how many staff would be interested. We need to achieve between 370 and 430 redundancies in order to spread the costs over several years. The council has not yet committed to a voluntary redundancy scheme. The expressions of interest will allow us to estimate the numbers of staff who would be interested and therefore to measure the likely savings the council would make. The cabinet will be taking a decision over whether to go ahead with the redundancies at our meeting later this month. We will do everything we can to ensure that the council continues to provide the effective and efficient services the city’s people expect, while continuing to improve our overall performance. We will also work with our staff, managers and the trade unions to ensure the redundancy process is handled properly.”