Council puts job cuts on hold in response to pandemic

Council chiefs had planned to cut the roles as part of efforts to plug a £45m budget black hole over next three years.

Council puts job cuts on hold in response to pandemic

Plans to axe almost 200 jobs at Renfrewshire Council have been put off until at least next year in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced in February council chiefs planned to cut the positions as part of efforts to plug a £45m budget black hole over the next three years.

The proposal formed part of a programme dubbed Right for Renfrewshire, which aims to pull in around £25m in savings for the local authority.

But papers presented to an emergencies board meeting have revealed the move – which was due to affect around 180 staff – has been put on hold.

It means employees who were due to leave the council from June will now be asked to remain in their posts until the end of March next year.

The decision has been welcomed by Unison’s branch secretary for Renfrewshire, Mark Ferguson.

He hopes the scale of response which has been required from staff recently will lead council bosses to look at workers in a different light on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We support the move to halt the Right for Renfrewshire programme, as we do not know what the workforce demands are going to be going forward,” said Mr Ferguson.

“I think the amount of response that’s been required in this period has shown how needed the workers are.

“In social care for example, these workers are the backbone in the community during this crisis.

“We should look at public service in a different way in the future, as something like this does show some fragility from years of austerity.

“I hope when we look at it again [Right for Renfrewshire], we look at it in that context.”

A significant proportion of the job cuts were to come from the customer transactions department, as the council seeks to make more use of technology and automation to handle routine requests across customer service centres, administrative support and employee services.

Other departments which were due to be affected included school and social care catering, building standards and community development and protection.

Bosses said the cuts would be achieved through a combination of voluntary redundancy, voluntary early retirement and managing existing vacancies.

Mr Ferguson added: “We do support the premise of Right for Renfrewshire, as we like the idea of more flexibility for staff and modernising the workforce, but there needs to be enough staff to do that.

“The reduction in numbers was a real concern.”

A council spokesman said: “We have decided to put Right for Renfrewshire on hold with immediate effect which means the changes planned for this financial year 2020/21 will be delayed. There is no decision on when the programme will restart.

“The impact of the virus on council services and people in our community is unprecedented. While the Scottish and UK Governments continue to oversee the national response, the council is doing all it can – with our partners, to help keep our staff, and the local people who depend on us, safe and well.

“The support from our staff and services has been remarkable, and it would not be possible to ask more of our workforce at this time.”

Story by local democracy reporter Steph Brawn

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