Slough council still has staff issues after laying off 49 people

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk

The council’s precarious financial position has had an impact on staff levels beyond what it could account for – even after laying off nearly 50 people.

At an employment and appeals committee on Tuesday, councillors discussed the ‘restructuring’ of its workforce for the sake of cost-saving.

At the meeting, councillors heard that 49 members of council staff have been laid off.

With redundancy costs and consultancy fees, this has generated a one-off cost to the council of more than £3m – which may possibly increase by a further £2.58m.

The aim of the restructure was to save £5.2m for Slough council per year, according to reports from a previous employment committee in January.

However, Steven Mair, the council’s chief finance officer, denied that there had ever been an aim to save £5.2m, stating that the aim was to save £2.5m.

Moreover, further restructuring is needed, said Mr Mair.

“The council will have to radically change its position, it will have to downsize,” he said. “I think where the council is now, I strongly suggest further restructuring will be necessary.”

News of the council’s serious financial situation has thrown a spanner in the works – there are reports of staff members ‘jumping ship’ before they are asked to leave, amid all the job uncertainty.

Council officers said they are ‘trying very hard’ to give staff some reassurance that the council ‘will hopefully be in a better position shortly’.

The council has also been seeking to reduce its reliance on agency staff. It was spending around £3.4million on them every four months.

Roles covered by agency workers include a housing officer, occupational therapist, social worker, COVID-19 contact tracer, support worker and early years practitioner, among others.

Many of the temporary roles are financial. The cost to date for these staff is £853,000, with placements lasting a year on average.

As of August, there were 25 agency or temporary staff employed. Since July, fewer placements has made around £112,100 of savings.

But chair of the committee, Cllr Safdar Ali (Lab, Central) raised concerns that the restructuring does not appear to have achieved its purpose, despite the costs and problems involved.

“If it hasn't delivered what it was aiming to deliver, all I can think is, what a waste of taxpayer's money and time,” he said.

“These are the things that need to be looked at from the beginning.

“We need to learn from this.”

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