Stoke-on-Trent City Council Increases The Number Of Managers While Cutting Front Line Services And Staff

Since John van de Laarschot became the Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council in January 2010 we have seen some of the biggest changes and cuts in a generation in the city.

John came in to the city with not only excellent Local Government credentials, having improved the rating of Torridge district council in north Devon from 3 to 5 stars but also real world commercial experience having worked in corporate finance and running the South African arm of PepsiCo.

In june 2010 barely 6 months in to the job, John was quoted as saying

I think this organisation is top-heavy with management and I can’t defend that. I will weed out those who are not up for challenge and who don’t have an appetite to serve our customers.

In 2010 you would maybe have thought that true, with too many directorates and no less than 270 managers earning £50,000 + salaries.

The axe soon started to fall, in September 2010 announcements were made that the number of directorates were to be reduced and restructured removing 14 of the 37 Directors & Heads of Service, with the new streamlined structure having to be in place on the first working day of 2011, exactly a year to the day of John VDL starting.

Shortly after this the rest of the council workforce were put under consultation and were informed that 700 jobs were to go. The consultations and redundancies have been an almost constant feature within the City Council since then with a further 300+ jobs being earmarked for redundacy as the City Council struggles to meet its budget.

With all the cuts and restructuring over the past 15 months you would expect the City Council to be a leaner more cost effective and streamlined organisation, yet figures released today show that the number of managers who earn £50,000+ at Stoke-on-Trent City Council actually increased by 24 from 270 to 294 in 2010/11.

So during his first year in charge when he promised to weed out those who are not up for challenge, it seems that John has found more people who are up for the challenge rather than doing any weeding.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council tops the league of midlands councils at £99.41 when it comes to cost per head of population for employing £50k+ managers, this is almost £16 more than second place Leicester.

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said

It is disappointing to see so many middle managers at Midlands councils, particularly at a time when public sector pay is being restrained and low paid staff are being laid off. It’s not fair to demand that ordinary workers take a pay freeze or lose their jobs while more and more middle managers are enjoying generous remuneration. Councils need to cut back the bloated bureaucracies that have developed in town halls in recent years. Taxpayers in places like Stoke-on-Trent will be particularly disappointed that their local authority claims it has no alternative but to increase Council Tax but goes on to spend so much on employing so many high earners.

Just remember, council employees who are on a pay freeze and those that were made redundant, you‘re all in this together. Maybe his new £130k Deputy Chief Exceutive will improve the situation next year.

Update 11:50

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have issued the following statement to Pits n Pots

A council spokesman, said

The Tax Payer’s Alliance figures amalgamate staff annual salaries with one off payments, such as redundancy packages. This means that the figures do not reflect the true picture with regards to staff on an annual income of more than £50,000.

In response to the council statement, I have only detailed an uplift of 24 officers who earnt £50k+ in 2010/11 over 2009/10, the actual number of officers who earnt £50k+ in 2010/11 was 86 and as the TPA report and the Councils own accounts point out, 62 of these were due to redundancy payments moving the salary in to the £50k+ bracket.


530 Council Staff Express Interest In Redundancy

By Mike Rawlins

As previously reported Stoke-on-Trent City Council were asking around 6,000 non-school council staff to consider taking voluntary redundancy to help plug the shortfall of between £5m and £12m on this year’s £201m revenue budget by April next year.  This predicted shortfall has now been reduced from between £10m and £17m.

The new figures are made up of £5.6m predicted overspend, plus a further £6.8m of costs that are at risk of being incurred this financial year.

by close of business today (Thursday) 530 staff had expressed an interest in the voluntary redundancy scheme, the council will now work out the potential costs and savings of a voluntary redundancy programme. Department directors will also assess where staffing reductions could be made. A decision on whether to go ahead with a voluntary redundancy will be made in the coming weeks by the cabinet.

Councillor Kieran Clarke, cabinet member for resources, said: “The financial situation faced by the council is very serious, but we are making good progress in managing it.  We have already reduced the worst case scenario by 25 per cent and we expect to continue to cut the potential shortfall over the coming months.  We have also had a good response to our call last week to say whether staff would be interested in taking voluntary redundancy.  I must stress at this time that we have not yet embarked on a voluntary redundancy programme.”
He went on to say:  “Because 530 members of staff have expressed an interest in taking voluntary redundancy does not mean that number will go. We now need to examine what the potential costs, savings and impact would be.  We will also work with department directors and managers to see where people could leave without harming frontline services.  We must also continue to implement the savings already identified and work to reduce the potential risks we face.”