Wednesday, 21 November 2018

890 jobs at risk as county council bids to save up to £58m

890 jobs at risk as county council bids to save up to £58m

ALMOST 900 jobs could be cut by Oxfordshire County Council in a bid to save up to £58million.

The authority is set to be overhauled in a move that it says will improve frontline services while cutting red tape and reducing the costs of “back office” administration.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which devised the savings plan, says it could save £34million to £58million a year by cutting staff and streamlining services.

To fully implement the new model 600 to 890 full-time equivalent posts would have to be axed over a period of two to three years.

The council says the number of compulsory redundancies will be lower than this as its annual staff turnover is about 650.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We are committed to retraining staff wherever possible to fill the new jobs that would be created as a result of the proposed new council
operation.

“Like all councils, Oxfordshire County Council has had to manage a significant reduction in government funding since 2010 while coping with rising demand for services, particularly adult and children’s social care.”

The council says it wants to remain “fit for the future” while continuing to meet rising demand for services, particularly care for vulnerable children and adults.

It says digital technology will free up staff to provide a better service to residents and reduce administration costs.

The council says working with communities is its top priority, so that services are as effective and efficient as possible. This will include better use of data to target resources where they are needed most and have the greatest impact.

It is also looking at better ways to deliver services, including better use of technology. This could include:

• Remote testing of fire alarms

• Use of drones in emergency situations

• Assistive technology to help disabled children.

The proposals will deliver £33million in savings, which the council needs to deliver under its four-year budget plan, without cuts to services.

The estimated one-off cost of £18million needed to implement the new model would be paid back from the savings made. Councillor Hudspeth said: “These proposed changes are a crucial part of the council’s commitment to supporting thriving communities for everyone in Oxfordshire.

“Over the last eight years, the council has taken some difficult decisions so we can meet the growing demand for services while staying on a sound financial footing.

“We are now looking to create an organisation that can provide services that Oxfordshire people and communities want and need.

“We still need to save money to meet our budget pressures over the next few years. This review has shown that we can provide more support by cutting red tape and reducing the costs of ‘back office’ administration and making sure taxpayers’ money is spent on providing council services.

“The advice from PwC will more than pay for itself by finding savings that we could not have found on our own. This is a golden opportunity to make real changes that would at one and the same time save money and benefit the public.

“The report clearly says that we can make these changes without reducing the quality of services for residents.”

David Nimmo Smith, who was Henley’s representative on the council for 12 years before losing his seat last year, said: “There’s a shortage of monies in all councils at the moment. If you streamline a lot of the backroom stuff by using technology you won’t need as many people and you do save money.”

Councillor Nimmo Smith, who is still a member of South Oxfordshire District Council and Henley Town Council, said: “The county council has been banging on the door of central Government for an awfully long time, saying ‘we’re in this position’.

“Social services, I expect, is taking up a disproportionate amount of the funding. It was about 50 per cent when I left and it’s probably around that level now. We’re all living longer and require more help as we get older so it’s a bottomless pit.”

The council’s cabinet will decide this month whether to implement the plan.

Meanwhile, the county council is to have a new chief executive.

Yvonne Rees will take over from Peter Clark next month while also retaining her role as chief executive of Cherwell District Council.

She will receive a salary of £190,000 per year, including £115,900 paid by the county council, with a review after six months.

Mr Clark will receive a pay-off of nearly £260,000.

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