Mar 3 2010 by Robert Mitchell, Airdrie & Coatbridge
WITH council bosses facing £75million of cuts the Advertiser has seen reports that bring up “the potential for redundancies” and reveal a “major proportion” of the savings are likely to come from staff costs.
With almost 80 per cent of North Lanarkshire Council’s 17,500 employees living in the area there is a concern that “any changes which occur within the council’s labour market will have a direct impact on the local economy.”
As it stands the council expects there will be no job cuts in the 2010/11 financial year but lay-offs after that have not been ruled out. The local authority has already slashed £15million from its 2010/11 budget and another £60million has to be found between 2011/12 and 2013/14.
John O’Hagan, Executive Director of Corporate Services, said: “The council recognises that its workforce is key to delivering quality services that meet the needs of our residents and in helping the council achieve the efficiency savings that are necessary because of a reduction in public funding.
“As part of our Service and People First Transformation project to make those savings, we have identified a number of areas where we can reduce employee costs. This includes reducing overtime costs, a review of all current or new vacancies, seeking to fill vacancies by internal recruitment in the first instance, and continuing to reduce absence levels.
“The council has already stated that it does not anticipate compulsory redundancies in the next financial year, 2010/11. While we cannot guarantee the position for the future because of the severe financial pressures we are facing, the council will continue to seek to minimise the need for redundancies within the workforce.”
Proof of cost-cutting can be seen in a report titled Workforce Deployment that says existing vacancies in the council will not be filled, unless specific permission is given from a senior official. In January there were 143 vacant posts across the council. A recruitment freeze had also been considered in the council but that idea was thrown out.
The report also states that vacancies should be filled internally unless something like the need for specialist skills means recruiting outside the council workforce.
However two issues were raised in the report. Legally, the council should appoint on merit. The reports also points out the council’s duties under Equalities legislation “where we have already identified and regularly report that our employment of certain minority ethnic groups is significantly below, in proportionate terms, the existence of such groups in wider society.”
Bringing up redundancies, the report adds: “In both these cases, however, it is thought that a more closed recruitment arrangement could be justified in business terms given, in particular, the prospect for reduced employment opportunities overall and the potential for redundancies.”
Since January the council’s recruitment advertising has been changed “to reflect the principle that any recruitment should normally canvass internal applicants only” unless someone at Chief Officer level decides otherwise.
The same report revealed that slashing overtime by 15 per cent between 2011 and 2014 could save £5million. Overtime for 2009/10 was around £14million.
Another report called Workforce Planning says: “With approximately 40 per cent of the council’s gross budget taken up with employee costs, a major proportion of the savings target is expected to come from savings in employee costs.”
It goes on: “Seventy-eight per cent of council employees reside in North Lanarkshire. Therefore, any changes which occur within the council’s labour market will have a direct impact on the local economy.”