Friday, 22 October 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Steven Pleasant, Chief Executive of Tameside Council Responds to the Comprehensive Spending Review

Tameside Council's Chief Execuitve, Steven Pleasant sends out weekly emails to staff to let them know what's going on at the council. A theme over the past two weeks has been building over the inevitable job cuts. On the 8th of October, he headlined his newsletter with "Support with Change". The public sector darlings at Tameside council offices must be having trouble grasping the fact that they can't simply piss money up the wall anymore.

Support with Change

Since Central Government announced the likely level of spending cuts to public services, I know all areas of the Council have been looking at ways to generate efficiencies and make savings. As services respond to these financial challenges, many of us will be experiencing changes both individually and within teams.

To support staff during this time, we are putting in place a series of 90 minute workshops over the coming months. The sessions will cover topics including managing resilience, goal setting and working with change, providing practical tools and techniques for all employees. People from across the organisation have told me these are some of the main areas they would like more support around.

If you are interested in attending look out for more information on the staff portal next week or alternatively speak to your manager. Also, if there are other areas you think we should look at – let me know.

He then emailed a week later on the 15th of October with a statement in anticipation of the comprehensive spending review. He states that Tameside Council will "continue to manage our resources as stringently as possible". Forgive me if I sound a little pessimistic, but I shall reserve judgement given your tendency to spend money like it's going out of fashion. Need I mention wasting money on statues, a virtual town hall, non-jobs etc... But here's an idea Steve, cut the bullshit workshops. If staff can't cope, then fuck 'em. I can't cope with paying more tax to support a large state which is crippling our economy.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Next week, the Government will issue details of its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). This will give us further indications of the levels of savings local authorities are required to make over the next 3 years. We know from previous ministerial statements that the scale of reduction on the Council’s budget will be severe and unprecedented. Executive Members and senior managers met this week to discuss the possible options we will need to consider if we are to meet this challenge. Until we know the actual extent of the budget reductions, we cannot make any big decisions about future service delivery options. We can, however, continue to manage our resources as stringently as possible and I would like all managers and employees to continue working together to identify ways to make efficiencies and savings.

It is my intention to keep everyone up to date on the spending review and what this means for us as a Council. I will inform you of the details as the picture becomes more clear.

Today Pleasant has informed staff to inform them that the end of the public sector gravy train is over and job losses are on the way. Tameside is to expect a 28% reduction in its budget over the next four years.

On Wednesday, the Government announced its plans for public spending in its Comprehensive Spending Review. Although the detail of the review is still to be confirmed, we now know that overall, local authorities are facing an unparalleled 28% reduction in their budgets over the next four years.

What this means exactly for us in Tameside is not yet clear but we know that the challenge is enormous. Putting it in context, we will have to save in one year what we have saved through efficiencies in the last 7 years added together. This probably equates to savings of over £30million next year and a total of around £100 million over 4 years.

We have to explore every single option and create new and better ways of doing things if we are to minimise the effect of the cuts on our frontline services. We need to keep delivering to those in our community who are the most vulnerable and in need of our support, whilst protecting people's jobs and livelihoods.

Our private, public and voluntary sector partners will have a key role in working with us to support our community. We must develop even more links with them, building on the strong relationships already established through our partnership working.

I have no doubt that there will be anxieties following Wednesday's announcement, particularly in light of the publicised job cuts across the sector. Clearly, faced with these unprecedented savings we will need to operate as an organisation with fewer people in the future. It is impossible at this point to say how changes to service delivery will impact on job numbers, however, as an organisation we will continue to look at ways to protect people's jobs as much as we can.

The precise details of the challenge ahead may not be clear for several weeks, and it will be some time before the full fallout from the Government's announcement becomes clear. Over the next few months, decisions will have to be made by the Executive on service delivery options that will achieve our savings targets. I will keep you fully informed on these decisions as we move forward.

It is my expectation that all staff have the opportunity to be involved in the shaping of services through team meetings, one to ones with managers and service reviews. If you are not experiencing this involvement please let me know.

That's all for this week.

Chief Executive
Tameside MBC

Looks like those paid union staff may come in use after all!