Newcastle City Council jobs axe is a return to out-dated ‘salami-slice’ policy, says union boss

A council leader has been accused of reneging on his promise to not ‘salami-slice’ authority jobs.

Unison have said Newcastle City Council’s draft budget plans which will shred 260 jobs across a range of departments, from highways to adminstration staff to family service workers, fails to come up with a new model for how the authority will be run.

Council leader Nick Forbes has previously said annual ‘salami-slicing’ of budgets, where a handful of jobs are taken from a range of departments, is ‘no longer adequate’ when faced with large cuts from Central Government. The key to future services is instead, he argued, to transform the status quo.

However Paul Gilroy, Newcastle branch member for Unison, said:

The council talked two years ago about how Newcastle would look in 2020 and they talked about transforming the city council. They have done only elements of that. The Family Services Review has transformed what’s delivered to families but in other parts of the authority there isn’t a significant amount of evidence of transforming services.

“There still is an element of ‘salami-slicing’ and people are bothered by it. An example is the decision to shut the Tourist Information Centre. In 2012 the council talked about transformational change but we are struggling with what that means.”

Details of Newcastle City Council’s Family Services Review, which includes changes to the Sure Start service, will be released in January.

Up to 27 jobs will go when the council embarks on creating new ‘community family hubs’ across the city after having its budget cut by £5m.

Leader of the council Nick Forbes, who works at a national level to come up with ideas on how to change public services within the Core Cities organisation, believes significant changes are being made.

He said:

“Our budget demonstrates a transformational approach to public services and we know that we need to go further in years ahead. But it is the Government that is holding back true transformation through its unceasing and savage cuts to public services.”

He said there were many examples of transformational proposals for services in the council’s draft budget for 2015-2016 and the authority has already been financially rewarded for its innovation in its social services department.

Councils are awarded financial grants from Central Government if they demonstrate ways in which they have tackled delivering public services differently and in the past Newcastle has received a grant for its work redesigning family mental health services.

Councillor Forbes, said:

“We have also worked with our partners to save many of our libraries from closures and have set up a fund independent of council that guarantees funding for the arts.

“We are also looking at setting up a trust to manage many of our parks and heritage assets.”

In the future we are looking to save money through digital transformation by making many of our services available digitally, and we are looking to integrate our health and social care services.”

He said ‘true transformation’ of services requires a fundamental change from the current top-down ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach and more upfront funding for local innovation, which is what Newcastle City Council is lobbying for.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  23 Dec 2014

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