Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sandra Stewart's Rallying Call to Staff

Whilst not responding to FOI's, Tameside Council's borough solicitor and deputy chief executive finds time to write to staff in the weekly staff brief which is usually taken care of by Steven Pleasant. Reading the email, you would of thought it would of come from one of Tameside Council's paid union stooges as she describes the cuts to local government spending as the "biggest external threat this council has ever had to face".

Supporting Employees to Early Retire

You will be aware that the Council faces significant cuts to its funding, as announced by Government in the Comprehensive Spending Review on the 19 October 2010, on a scale and speed never seen or experienced in the lifetime of Tameside Council.

Additionally, the Government is also currently consulting on changes that it proposes to make to the Local Government Pension Fund. Whilst it is not known what these changes are likely to be, it is clear that any changes are likely to have a detrimental effect on the benefits that the Pension Fund will provide.

There is a lot of activity going on across the Council, at the moment, led by the Executive Cabinet Members, because of our need to respond very quickly to the biggest external threat this Council has ever had to face. It means having to look at every single part of the council in terms of what we do and why we do it - in recognition that we will have considerably less money for next 4 years.

Nearly all our costs are the wages of the people who deliver our services. There is no doubt that faced with these unprecedented and severe cuts means we will need to employ fewer people and become a much smaller organisation over the next few years.

We have, therefore, been considering opportunities we can give to employees to access their pensions early whilst saving money to protect services and secure jobs.

Consequently, where there is a financial business case to do so the Council is enabling employees, who are 55 or over, to exit the Council on beneficial terms to the employee, which will also result in savings to the wages budget as vacant posts will not be filled at the same level if at all. This is because we will have to find new models of delivery that protect our frontline services and keep delivering to those in our community, who are the most vulnerable and in need of our support. We need to do that in a way that protects people’s jobs and livelihoods.

I am aware that discussions have been taking place directly between managers and staff during the summer about the potential to enable early access to pensions and a number of employees have taken the opportunity to secure their pensions. However, feedback has been received from a number of employees indicating they do not fully understand the offer made to them and the potential changes to the pension fund scheme.

Given the circumstances and the feedback, it has been decided to send a letter detailing an early retirement offer to any employee who is 55 or over and whose individual exit package can be afforded. Whilst the Council would like to offer everyone who is over 55 access to their pension, this is not possible because such an offer must be affordable and generate significant savings. It is extremely unlikely, given the current financial climate and proposed changes to the pension fund, that the Council will be able to support such retirements in the future.

Letters will be sent to eligible staff next week setting out full details.

Tameside Council has been told to scale down their budget by £100m over the next four years. This is as much as Manchester City Council who have a larger budget. It tells you that Tameside has had far too much for too long.
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