More than 30 frontline South Tyneside Council jobs are to be shed in a new bid to streamline services.
The council needs to cut 33 posts in the areas of housing services, community safety and street cleaning – reducing staff from 150 to 117.
It is hoped the majority of jobs will go through voluntary redundancies, redeployment and early retirement.
The plan is to establish a new streamlined housing and area management team to be overseen by South Tyneside Homes.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said the new approach was part of a bid to “deliver frontline services in the most efficient way possible”.
But Merv Butler, branch secretary with Unison South Tyneside – which is now in consultation over the changes – described them as “worrying”.
One employee affected by the switch said frontline services would “inevitably” be cut as a result.
Among the posts threatened are housing officers on various grades, tenant enforcement officers and community wardens and street cleaning managers, supervisors and workers.
Coun Malcolm said: “In the face of unprecedented financial challenges, we have to continue to look at ways of delivering frontline services in the most efficient way possible, without compromising on quality.
“We’ve identified a range of housing, community safety and area management functions across South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes that would benefit from being integrated through one single organisation.
“The integration of street cleaning and estate maintenance functions will build on the highly successful Handy Estates pilot that has been in operation across the council and South Tyneside Homes since April 2013, and has received very positive feedback.
“We are confident that this new model will deliver an improved public service by concentrating our resources where there is a proven track record of expertise.”
He added: “We are very conscious that changes of this nature can be unsettling for the staff involved.
“We are doing all we can to minimise uncertainty and have already held a series of briefing sessions with affected members of staff and trade unions representatives.
“Consultation, including one-to-one sessions with affected staff, will be ongoing. While this review will result in an overall reduction in the number of posts, we will ensure that this impacts on staff as little as possible, through management of redeployment opportunities, early retirements and voluntary redundancy.”
Mr Butler said: “The public need to understand the implications of this, particularly in the area of community safety as it could see a reduction in the number of community wardens.
“It is very worrying. The council does have difficult decisions to make but we want to see frontline services protected and our members jobs maintained.
“They see this as the best way of doing this is by creating this new structure. We just hope they are right.”
Although pay protection is in place, one employee, a multi-skilled operative, told the Gazette he believes his salary would be reduced from £19,000 to £14,000 a year under the proposals.
He said: “I just couldn’t exist on that and would to have leave the authority.
“I’m already looking for a new job.
“It’s particularly upsetting because these are workers on the frontline who are dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis, not faceless back office staff
“Those frontline services will inevitably be reduced as a result.
“We feel we have been unfairly selected.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 12 June 2014
The crippling Private Finance Initiative scheme which funded the building of the new Hexham General Hospital has been bought out.
The hospital was built 10 years ago with the help of one of the first PFIs in the country.
But the burden of PFI repayments has taken its toll on the trust’s balance sheet.
So, after two years of delicate negotiations, and with Treasury approval, the trust has signed a loan with the county council to buy out the PFI. The council has access to loans through the Public Works Board below rates available to the trust.
The loan is the first of its kind agreed between a local authority and a healthcare trust.
Trust chief executive Jim Mackey said: “We are delighted that we are able to progress this agreement which delivers real value for money for taxpayers and helps save millions of pounds which will be reinvested directly in patient care.”
County council deputy leader, Coun. Dave Ledger, said: “This announcement is excellent news for local people and the local economy.
“The loan represents good value for the residents of Northumberland as it will reduce overall borrowing costs and release resources to support frontline health and social care services across the county.
“This is a result of the very strong and close working arrangements that have existed between Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare for a number of years, resulting in some of the best examples of integrated health and social care in England.”
Source – Hexham Courant, 11 June 2014
Conservatives have said it is time to save money by reducing the number of councillors.
Tories in Sunderland say the cuts could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.
> Don’t they always say that ? What really happens is resources are reduced (library closures in Sunderland, for example) but taxpayers still pay the same. Pay the same but get less. How is this a saving ?
They say that while the council itself has become smaller over the last few years, the number of councillors has remained at 75.
> Yeah, but surely councillors aren’t the same as people working for the council. If you reduce the number of councillors, constituents representation will be worse.
The workforce at the council has been reduced from about 8,000 to just over 4,000 since budget reductions started.
> Which = more people on the dole. It’s the Tory way, folks…
Councillor Robert Oliver and Doxford Candidate Dominic McDonough believe that it is time to trim the number of councillors.
Throughout the country many councils have already cut the number of councillors, diverting funds to frontline services.
Conservative candidate for Doxford Ward, McDonough, said: “As we see the council getting smaller and efficiency savings being made, it is common sense to assume that the number of councillors should also be reduced.
> But he still wants to be one, you’ll notice…
“Several councils in England have already cut the number of councillors they elect in line with cuts to staff levels. The money saved by cutting the number of councillors should be diverted to frontline services.”
> Eh ? Surely the number of councillors is determined by the population they serve – not staff levels at the council ! Hope this guy doesn’t get elected !
Councillor Robert Oliver said: “It is right that the budget for councillors is reduced in the same way as other council budgets are reduced.
“Other services at the council have faced budget cuts, but have improved in quality, and the same should happen with the councillors.”
> Tory policy in a nutshell – less is more.
Well, less for you anyway. Not less for them.
Source – Sunderland Echo 12 March 2014
Paramedics will today hold crisis talks as the North East Ambulance Service reveals the full extent of Government cuts.
Ambulance staff will meet at a seminar to ask just who cares for the carers, and what can be done to force NHS bosses to better fund them.
The service will warn that Government-ordered 20% budget cuts mean patients are sometimes waiting more than two hours for a vehicle, while rapid response staff are waiting five hours in a patient’s home with the patient waiting for transport.
In a damning list of support failings set to go to NHS chiefs, the service will warn that: staff morale is at an all-time low; assaults on staff have shot up; paramedics are spending hours in A&E waiting for a bed for patients.
Union leaders say the service is having to call in volunteers from St John’s Ambulance to help out even o n some emergency calls.
Just last week it was reported home patients in the North East are being forced to wait up to six hours for an ambulance despite guidelines saying paramedics should arrive within 30 minutes.
One patient had to wait more than three hours after the emergency was categorised as ‘red2’, which is potentially life-threatening and has a target time of eight minutes.
Figures obtained by The Journal from a Freedom of Information request showed that the North East Ambulance Service failed to meet their target response times on 10 separate occasions in a 12-month period.
Staff at the meeting in Durham today will discuss what to do about growing work pressures. They say that late finishes appear now to be nearly every shift, there are late meal breaks, if any at all, and will warn that crews are regularly facing angry families when arriving on a job knowing that the patient had been waiting for a while.
Paramedics will hear from North East Labour MEP candidate Jude Kirton-Darling, who will warn that a Conservative victory in elections this May could see EU working limits scrapped, making the situation worse.
Joel Byers, Unison’s North East Ambulance Service staff secretary, said: “Government cuts have forced ambulance trusts to cut 20% of their budget year on year but stating patient care should not be affected. This is an impossible task as the majority of our budget is for frontline services.
“The Commissioners are reluctant to pay extra money on a long-term basis to enable North East Ambulance Service to recruit more vitally needed staff. However, workloads have increased year on year with no extra resources except for the use of Private Ambulance Companies. The use of Private Ambulance Companies, First Responders and Police Cars is evidence in itself that there is a lack of resource in frontline staff.
“Every department from frontline, support services and HQ staff are undergoing restructures which are potentially putting staff at risk.
“The extra pressure being applied by the cuts is not just having emotional impact on staff but also a physical impact on staff in terms of assaults and injuries at work.
“For example the number of North East Ambulance Staff that have either suffered an injury at work or been assaulted has risen 590 in 2009 to 916 in 2013.
“With the ongoing pressure being placed on staff we expect the number to increase considerably in 2014.”
Last night he was backed by Ms Kirton-Darling, who said: “Ambulance workers in the North East have told me over the last few months they have experienced growing pressure as their working conditions deteriorate.
“Vital rest periods, set out in the European working time directive are there to ensure ambulance staff are able to operate safely and effectively on our behalf.
“Who in their right mind would want an ambulance worker dealing with a matter of life and death after a 12-hour shift without rest?
“The North East Ambulance Service must ensure decent rest periods and limit working time, otherwise I fear the service could face its own emergency soon with the public and workforce potentially put at risk.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 29 Jan 2014
A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.
The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.
They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.
The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.
> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?
She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.
“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”
The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.
> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt
However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.
Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.
“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.
“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”
> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?
Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.
These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.
> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?
The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.
> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.
The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.
> Truth is, the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should anyone in government really care what happens here ?
On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !
Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…
Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014
One in every five firefighters in Tyne and Wear could be made redundant after the region’s fire service announced proposals to cut over £5 million from its budget.
The authority is consult on three options, including using smaller response vehicles or axing up to six engines.
Option one includes “standing down” engines on quieter nights and reducing fire fighter cover at some stations.
Option 2 would see the same cuts plus the closure of community fire stations in Wallsend and Gosforth with services moving to a new facility at Benton.
A third option sees closures in Sunderland.
If all options are backed then 131 firefighting jobs – 20% of the workforce – would go. An aerial ladder platform would also be lost.
Brigade Secretary Dave Turner said “We have made it clear in all recent discussions with senior managers that we will oppose any further cuts to frontline services.
“These are the most devastating cuts in the service’s history and will mean firefighters and the public will be at far greater risk if these cuts go ahead.
“It also means that areas of Tyne and Wear will be left without cover for extended periods – again increasing the risk to both the public and firefighters alike.”
Fire service bosses will decide on the cuts in January.
Source – Newcastle Journal 23 Oct 2013