Union criticises council’s staff change announcement

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Unison West Sussex, the trade union which represents staff at County Hall, has challenged the way the county council announced a recent restructuring programme.

Last Wednesday (July 2) West Sussex County Council issued a press release stating that it was ‘reducing the overall senior management team from eight directors to four executive director posts and from 64 overall senior managers to around 20 with some functions being delivered in different ways’.

It followed a meeting of the council’s Governance Committee.

The union says this inferred a total of 48 redundancies were being made, when this was not the case.

In fact the only redundancies the Governance Committee was asked to approve was a reduction in the highest-level senior management structure, from eight to four.

Dan Sartin, branch secretary at UNISON West Sussex, said: “What is actually happening is that there is a rearrangement of the senior management structure.

“This happens almost on an annual basis now at West Sussex, and the process itself is always destabilising. Some managers will move down a tier on the structure chart, but that’s not the same thing as meaning they will be redundant or have their pay cut.

“It appears though that WSCC was quite happy to leave this false impression hanging in the air, perhaps because it fitted with their preferred political narrative that the council is making ‘tough choices’, and ‘cutting bureaucracy’, whilst at the same time freezing council tax.”

Announcing the changes last week, leader of the council Louise Goldsmith said they were part of ‘the council’s evolutionary process’.

She said: “There has been a considerable amount of consultation with staff about these changes - road shows, meetings and presentations to the county’s different political groups.”

“We need to evolve so we can continue to provide quality services to our residents at a time when we have a reducing income but increasing demands for what we provide. Our current structure is simply not sustainable.”

However Mr Sartin added the council could not run without good management.

He said: “These posts are not ‘nice to haves’.

“Complex organisations like the council need good managers and enough of them to keep essential services running smoothly.

“The idea that the council could cut 44 senior managers and no-one would notice is ludicrous.

“High quality public services run out of County Hall keep our children safe and educated, our elderly looked after, our environment clean, our homes and businesses protected from fire and floods and our population healthy.

“If there are further cuts to senior management in the coming years to help meet the council’s cuts target of £125million, be in no doubt, services will suffer.

“There are no celebrations to be had here, and there should be no spin or attempt to kid voters that public services can be run without managers.”

Final approval for the new structure, and the appointments of key statutory officers, will be taken at the full council meeting on July 25.