By Graham Smith
Cornwall council staff are facing another round of job losses as the Conservative-controlled authority struggles to balance its budget.
An email from council leader, councillor Linda Taylor, to all councillors, says £18 million must be cut from the workforce budget.
Mrs Taylor says she does not yet know how many jobs this will be, but assuming an average cost-per-worker of around £30,000, Cornwall Reports estimates that up to 600 people will be leaving the council’s employment.
A separate email to all staff, from senior council bosses, talks of seeking voluntary redundancies where possible. “We will be taking all measures to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies that may have to be made, starting with the recruitment freeze that is already in place, permanently deleting vacancies held in our staffing establishment, reducing non-essential spend and there will be opportunities for voluntary redundancy in the coming months,” it says.
“We will also be working to increase the agility of our organisation to deploy staff internally where posts are held as a result of the recruitment freeze, and with partner organisations across Cornwall to support staff with redeployment and outplacement as we anticipate that compulsory redundancies will be unavoidable.”
October has become a bleak month for council workers – at this time last year, the then Liberal Democrat-Independent administration asked for 200 to go via a voluntary redundancy scheme. More than 600 applied to leave.
The £18 million has to be found by the end of March. It is part of a £70 million cut the Conservatives are looking to impose – around 10% of the entire revenue budget.
Mrs Taylor’s email to all councillors says:
"You will be aware that we are managing the most difficult budget setting process the Council has had. We are currently facing an in-year overspend as legacy of the pandemic and its impact to our costs, and we have many a set of circumstances driving demand for Council services across the board. In order for the Council to remain financially stable, we simply must reduce the cost base of the Council quite significantly. This means reducing the amount of money the Council spends because year on year we are spending more money than we have coming in. We have looked at all of our expenditure and know there are some difficult decisions to make. For next year, we are trying to reduce our base by £70m which equates to over 10% of our revenue budget. This will mean some very difficult decisions both in terms of the number of people who work for the Council and for the number and size of contracts we have with suppliers.
"To deliver these reductions in the Council’s cost base, the Chief Executive has put in place three programmes of work which are supporting the Council’s business and financial planning. Our Enterprise is overseeing how can reduce the amount we spend through partners and suppliers through contracts, Our Space is looking at transforming and reducing the size of the Council’s Estate, and Our Shape is looking at how we redesign the Council’s staffing structures, and in the short term, reduce the size of the workforce.
"This note advises all Members that the Council has today informed its staff of proposed staffing reductions in order to contribute towards delivering a balanced budget for 2022/23. The message to the Council’s staff is attached for your information. You will note that a significant reduction target has been set of c£18m by 31 March 2022, against a current workforce spend of c£200m. At this stage, we are not able to translate the £18m workforce budget reduction figure into a defined number of roles, as a lot will depend on how the reductions are made and the types of roles that will be impacted. We are also looking at ways we can reduce the amount of compulsory redundancies, by implementing recruitment freezes, removing vacancies where appropriate and using voluntary redundancy.
"Proposals for how these reductions will be made are currently being developed, ahead of consultation with trade unions and staff in November. I have asked that Members be kept informed of proposals as they are take shape and information will be provided to Members via Cabinet Members later this month and through November.
"Members will understand that this will be a challenging period for staff and leaders within the organisation. I know colleagues will join me in doing what we can to support them through a difficult few months."