County Hall job cuts plan ‘irresponsible’ and ‘cruel’

Photo Neil Cross'County Coun Geoff Driver
Photo Neil Cross'County Coun Geoff Driver
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Lancashire County Council’s former leader has described proposals to axe 2,500 jobs at County Hall as “irresponsible” and “cruel”.

Around 13,000 workers are to be offered voluntary redundancy (VR) as the council tries to shed the roles by April 2016.

County Coun Jennifer Mein

County Coun Jennifer Mein

The authority, which expects to have to save around £300m from its annual budget in the next four years, said it was striving to avoid making compulsory redundancies.

But Conservative group leader Geoff Driver said: “It’s wrong to start the process off by saying they have got to get rid of 2,500 jobs.

“The way to go about it is to decide what their priorities are and then tell the workforce.

“If you just invite any member of the workforce to apply for VR, you could have people applying who you need to keep, so it’s irresponsible and particularly cruel because it’s just worrying the workforce and telling them that any of them are vulnerable.”

He said that when his party were in control they first set out a three-year programme explaining their key priorities.

Coun Driver added: “These are not numbers - they are real people, with real lives, real families and real mortgages.

“You’ve got to treat them responsibly and fairly because it’s not their fault the county council is in the position it is.”

Coun Mein said the approach had been taken after consulting with staff, and that her party wanted to handle the situation differently to the Tories, who cut around 1,500 jobs in the previous three years, mainly through VR offers.

She said: “I attended staff conferences in November and December. Their overwhelming view was they would rather know at the outset because it gives them the chance to plan.

“We’ve said to staff we will be transparent at all times and we’ve let them know what the terms of VR are until the end of this financial year, 14/15 and 15/16, so they know if they are allowed to go what they will be entitled to receive.

“Geoff forgets I was leader of the opposition for the last four years and people were always asking me questions and wanting to know what the situation was. There was more uncertainty then.”

Coun Mein said if staff applied for VR now and their request was turned down, but in two years’ time their role was no longer needed, a record of their original request would remain on file and they would be entitled to the same terms being offered at present.

She added: “These cuts are dreadful and it’s not good news, but this has been forced upon us by the funding cuts from Geoff Driver’s Government. That’s why we have to make these decisions.”

The proposal will be discussed at the council’s cabinet meeting next Friday.