UNISON response to London Borough of Croydon (LBC) Staffing Consultation
29 January 2021
Unison met with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) on 9 December 2020 where they launched formal consultation.
We were informed that a S114 had been issued on 4 December 2020 and that this will continue every 3 weeks. A S114 notice is issued to declare that the council is bankrupt.
There is a gap of £64.2 million and the council have submitted a loan application to the MHCLG.
We were informed that the first tranche of the proposals is to work on senior management in the following areas;
· Executive Leadership
· Head of Service.
In addition to the above the other proposals for job cuts are detailed below;
· Resources 19.6 fte
· Place 62.4 fte
· Children, Families and Education 49 fte
· Health, Wellbeing and Adults 11 fte
Collective views of members
UNISON offered all staff in scope the opportunity to meet virtually to gather their views on the proposals and conducted a survey of all members employed by Croydon Council.
UNISON conducted a survey of members employed at Croydon Council some of the key findings are:
· 37% of members feel let down by Council’s financial position;
· 29% are angry at the Council’s financial position;
· 16% are worried about the Council’s financial position;
· 76% of members believe the new Council management is no different than before;
· 11% stated they thought the new Council management was worse;
· 13% think that the new Council management is an improvement;
· 80% of members believe these proposals will have a negative impact on the community.
Other key Reponses to the survey includes,
“My team has not exactly been affected by the restructuring programme, but it has affected us all mentally as we witnessed our colleagues posts being culled and people losing their jobs. Although some of us are working from home but the atmosphere amongst staff is like have an Executioner amongst us and not knowing who goes next and to top it all we are all having to deal with the pandemic.”
“Knee jerk decisions trying to balance books without looking at the long term implications these cuts will have on services, residents and staff.”
“Whilst there have been webinars held there is still very little communication with those actually working with the public. Decisions are being made with little consideration of impact that job losses will have on those left to pick up jobs or the public who are facing increasing reduction in services. The most vulnerable need to be protected further.”
Further concerns raised in our meetings with staff are that not all departments impacted by the cuts for example, Law and Governance. Some jobs being deleted and replaced with another job and concerns around the increased workload. Emails received were done in a mail merge and not personalised and staff felt devalued. When the documents were released, they were difficult to find. When documents were eventually found in some areas the hours were incorrect, and staff discovered that they would fall under the remit of a totally different department. The continued staff cuts were taking its toll on staff’s mental health and difficult for staff to feel motivated. Further concerns were raised about the money being spent on consultants. More staff highlighted the impact the cuts would have on the workload for existing staff.
Concerns have been raised about the redeployment pool, the panels and staff felt that decisions had already been made so the process was not fair and transparent
The Council continues to have a high level of Interim people, Agency, Fixed term Contract in post while staff are being made redundant
Little concern shown for the impact on staff and residents.
Processes not clear, jobs still being advertised and not being held for the redeployment pool reducing the opportunities for those at risk of redundancies. It was felt that the proposals are having a disproportionate impact on those on lower grades and the disproportionate impact on Black staff was raised.
Many members reported a sense that this consultation process was simply the Council going through the motions with no intention of changing these proposals.
The budget was not clear to staff and they felt that despite their counter proposals in some areas that management had already made their minds up and the decision to make the cuts would not change.
As with other departments, in Resources there are serious concerns about the fairness and transparency of the consultation and the way that posts have been selected. These concerns were also raised last year in the staff review.
Members also raised concerns about the long-term impact these cuts will have on Staff met with their Director and one example given where the staff member wanted to reduce their hours the response from management was unless it is being reduced by 36 hours it was not worth management considering. Staff concerned about their ability to carry out their duties and the impact this will have on workloads.
Health, Well-being and Adults
Staff at risk of redundancy are unhappy about the cuts to the Welfare Rights Team after a presence of over 20 years in the borough and the negative impact these cuts will have on the most vulnerable in the community.
There were further concerns raised in relation to the number of referrals from social workers to Health and wellbeing and the impact on staff.
Concerns regarding the mixed messages from the council in relation to the proposed cuts.
Members are upset at the lack of transparency and the unfair way that posts have been selected for redundancy. It was highlighted that the figures presented in the document were duplicated and the figures were different causing confusion and uncertainty and mistrust. It was therefore difficult for staff to make informed decision due to the figures not being accurate. A meeting with Julia Pitt, Director took place with staff who wished to seek clarification.
Additional concerns raised regarding Access to Croydon as the proposal is to have a appointment system only staff feel that this will create barriers by closing the front door to the most vulnerable in society.
Unison have been informed that three Heads of Service post of which two are being done by interim staff and would like to know if they will be advertised in the redeployment pool.
Children’s, Families and Education
Concerns from members at risk of redundancy included what the reduction in headcount is going to mean for their workload. Further concerns were raised about the impact this will have on staff well-being as stress levels increased especially in the context of being isolated working from home. Members were concerned that the voices of service users who rely on these services have been ignored as part of this consultation. Other stakeholders and service users have not been formally informed or involved in the staffing review.
Staff raised concerns how they will be able to deliver services with so many jobs being cut and will find it hard to take pride in the work they do due to the increased workload.
As with other departments staff raised issues that there is still a large number of agency staff employed by the council. Concerns raised that where a redeployment is not successful that the council is reportedly placing agency staff in these roles.
The council is not holding on to experienced staff and could provide additional training where there is any shortfall in the post they are redeployed into and avoid redundancies.
Staff felt that the council were not being open and honest, no trust, that the council had stopped communicating with staff. The webinars had stopped.
Staff informed Unison that the main way they found any information was from ‘Inside Croydon.’
We were informed that the council is cutting everything to the bone, and the impact of these cuts were impacting on staff’s mental health and some staff have sought help from their GP.
Other areas of concerns raised was around staff absence for mental health and how will these be addressed in terms of staff reaching the trigger point and or the management of sickness absence invoked by managers.
Staff added that in 10 months they have only met with their director, head of service and service manager once.
There was some positive feedback, and this involved Stephen Tate, Director who we were informed did a good job updating his teams.
It is UNISON’s firm view that these cuts should not go ahead. The staff and residents of Croydon should not have to pay the price for years of underfunding and the failure by the Council leadership to manage the finances.
The potential for a further 142 jobs to be lost on top of the redundancies last year at Croydon Council is unacceptable to UNISON. It is unacceptable to UNISON members. It is unacceptable to the community.
At a time of such extreme uncertainty, it is nothing less than callous that this government is avoiding their duty to communities like Croydon.
At a time when more than 1,000 people are dying-each-day; during the worst period of unemployment in our generation, and at a time of a mental health crisis, a failure to adequately fund and protect critical community services is a failure of the State; the Council and government must be held to account.
To end the UNISON response to this consultation, one member summed up the feelings of the majority of Croydon Council staff about these cuts, “If these cuts are going to hurt our residents, then they are going to hurt me.”
Yvonne Green Louise O’Hara
Branch Secretary & Regional Convenor Regional Organiser
Croydon Unison Greater London Unison
Amended Saturday 30 January 2021 at 14;55pm YG
29 January 2021