Councillors Get First Opportunity To Discuss Staff Restructuring

wesleyan chapel 3Councillors will today get their first opportunity to discuss detailed proposals for a major overhaul of the Council.

If approved, it will be the biggest shake-up of Town Hall operations to date, with most departments facing potential changes or loss of staff numbers.

The reshaping takes in most services from Lifelong Learning to the Library, Finance to the Sports Hall.

However the Airport and Direct Labour Force operations will be evaluated later in the summer.

On Tuesday, staff whose jobs could be changed or abolished under the proposals were given notice of a 45-day consultation period.

The plan is to create new roles. In some cases existing duties or part-time posts will be merged into fewer, full time positions with new titles, and staff will have to reapply for those jobs.

Elected members will have a chance to raise their concerns with Chief Executive Theo Leisjer at a special meeting this morning.

He was part of a working party that drafted the plan along with Council Chairman Amanda Martin, Vice Chair Gaz O’Neill and an external HR consultant.

This morning’s meeting is informal so the press and public will be excluded. Members were also emailed yesterday by a Council officer and advised not to talk to the media.

Some councillors have told us they find the new structure complicated and difficult to understand.

Cllr David Pearson says he’ll fight to save non-statutory children’s services, which he fears could suffer if staffing is reduced.

He accepts that the Chief Executive is trying to increase efficiency, but David claims to have ”lived too long and worked in local government too long to think it is an easy task.”

Cllr Pearson says this is only a proposal and staff cuts “don’t have to happen.”

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough said he felt the elected members should have been consulted more and received the blueprint before it was given to affected staff.

He’s concerned about staff satisfaction if the reshaping is adopted, warning, “people are not a jigsaw.”

In the past, salaries and grades have been decided by the job evaluation process. Gordon wants to be sure that process has been followed and that the new grades have not been agreed by just a few officers.

It is too big a job to delegate to a small group of people, he says.

Gordon says councillors will take ultimate responsibility for the effects of any changes, so members should have the final sign-off.

Cllr Christine Savill echoes Gordon’s view that members have not had much time or information to take in the plans. Chris also wants a wider members’ discussion on the restructuring.

In a short official statement, Council Chairman Amanda Martin said: “This week the staff at the Council have had several opportunities to learn more about the proposals for the Council’s new structure and consultation process. This is part of the agreed re-organisation of the workforce.”

The Council boss will also tell members today what else he’s achieved in the first 100 days in his new job.

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