Suffolk County Council cutbacks see 850 jobs axed

MORE than 850 jobs have been lost at Suffolk County Council over the last year.

That represents more than 8pc of the workforce at the authority since the beginning of April 2010.

The job losses include some of those earning the biggest salaries at the council with a quarter of the authority's highest paid staff no longer on the payroll.

That has cut the �7million bill for the top earners by �1.8m.

The total number of staff employed has fallen from 10,456 in April 2010 to 9,605 in April this year – based on a headcount of directly-employed workers, not including schools staff.

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The reduction in staff is a substantial reason why the council was able to achieve cost savings of about �18m last year.

The authority announced the figure for savings last week – �2.8m more than it had expected to achieve during 2010/11.

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The majority of those who have left the council are administrative staff – the council says the number of frontline staff has remained fairly constant.

The number of carers employed by the council has remained unchanged and the number of social workers has actually increased as it tries to strengthen its support for vulnerable children, adults, and their families.

Council deputy leader Jane Storey, who is responsible for resource management in the council's cabinet, said the figures showed the authority was getting to grips with the task of reorganising its services.

She said: 'We are restructuring the county and that is meaning that the number of jobs is falling. Most of those jobs are in administrative roles, coming from the restructuring, rather than in frontline services because we are aware that people still need the services we offer.'

But she was aware the restructuring was causing pain for many people.

She said: 'Many of those who have left have gone voluntarily, but we must never forget that a significant number did not want to go and are not happy about what has happened.'

And many staff who remained found that their jobs had changed significantly following the restructuring process.

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard said it was difficult to know what to make of claims of significant job losses.

She said: 'Part of the problem is we have to take these figures at face value because there is no longer an effective human resources panel at the county.

'Having said that, it is not clear whether this news is good or bad. We want the council to be more efficient and this should be going along that way – but we don't really know whether these jobs are administrative or frontline.'

She said savings announced recently had given a boost to council reserves and this could mean that the council did not have to lose so many staff.

And Mrs Pollard warned the council should not see job reductions as an end in itself. 'The county is having to make savings at present, but this will not go on for all time and we have to avoid breaking the council,' she said.

The main union, UNISON, is also concerned about the level of job losses – and also about defining 'frontline' and 'back office' staff.

It has raised the question of whether trained staff who man telephone helplines are considered 'frontline' or 'back office.'

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