The news last week that Cambridgeshire County Council is requiring some of its staff to take ‘unpaid leave’ between Xmas and New Year is alarming on at least two fronts, writes Councillor David Jenkins.
Firstly CCC seems to be running out of money. As a senior finance officer said ‘we are simply spending above the resources we have available’. And that’s even after all the savings we accrue from having so many vacancies within Highways.
Secondly why is it the employees who get the pain? It’s the latest in a series of developments which have put pressure on them without any prospect of any reward.
It began of course with the Council’s savings programs which are continuing and have resulted in redundancies on a massive scale. In parallel there have been actions to reduce office costs by exiting buildings and hot-desking. So the message to those employees who remain is ‘you’ve got to work harder and do so without the hygiene factors which contribute to making work bearable’. Haven’t people heard of Herzberg and his motivation theories?
And in this context let’s not ask about recent hires who need mobile phones to be effective in their jobs but are being refused them for budgetary pressures. And we’re only half way through the year!
More recently, but related, we’ve moved people from offices in Cambridge to ones in Huntingdon. No matter that these people have complex lives which can’t so easily cope with such a change it’ll save money so it gets done. And if people leave that’s even better because we won’t have to pay them. This of course is going to be repeated in spades when Shire Hall closes and everyone has to move to Alconbury.
And as if to add insult to injury every member of staff was recently asked to identify £100 of additional saving which he or she might make to contribute to the Council’s savings necessity. Not a bad idea if you’ve got a motivated, engaged workforce. Somewhat counter-productive if it follows the squeezes that have preceded it.
And now this. It’s not quite the same I know but it does resonate of ‘short-time’ in industry and working in the gig economy and zero-hour contracts. What was the union thinking of when it agreed to allow this possibility?
Sadly it’s all unnecessary. During the UKIP years (2013-2017) CCC did not raise Council Tax by even one penny even though just about every other county council in the country was going for the 2% allowed. The Tories who were the biggest party were so scared of UKIP that they decided not to raise money that was needed and as a result Cambridgeshire County Council raises about £26 million less than it could from Council Tax. That rather puts the savings from not paying staff (about £800 thousand) in the shade.
And let’s remember too that in 2017 the Tories chose to ignore an independent review of members allowances and to implement their own scheme which cost about £180 thousand per year more and gave most of the extra to their own people.
It shouldn’t be this way. Have we forgotten that our people are our most valuable asset?