Neighbourhood Job Cuts at Peterborough Council

Staff in the Neighbourhoods Department at Peterborough City Council have been told their jobs are at risk of being axed. Paul Phillipson talks to Paul Stainton at 07:35 on Friday 3rd September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PS: Sixty people have been told their jobs in the city are at risk. They all work for Peterborough City Council. Half of the staff in the Neighbourhoods Department could go or be moved. Their remit covers the social housing list, and New Link, which helps migrants after coming to Peterborough. Paul Phillipson is Director of Operations at Peterborough City Council. Can you explain exactly what’s going on here Paul?
PP: Yes. Good morning to you Paul.
PS: Good morning.
PP: This is part of a restructure that we’re going through at the moment within the Neighbourhoods area of my business. The Directorate that I’ve got covers obviously planning, transport and engineering, and a wide remit across the city centre and our parking services. The Neighbourhoods Division has long been … we’d needed to restructure and refocus the way in which we deliver business across that particular area. You mentioned a couple of areas but there’s also community safety that’s covered. And we’re looking at different ways of doing things. Some of the aspects that we have been criticised before in the past is insufficient prosecution and enforcement. So we’re looking at different ways in which we can do that enforcement element. And some of that restructuring, which is what this is at the moment, and it is an internal consultation with our staff, is looking at different ways in which we can do that. We’ve had to place a number of staff at risk, because we’re looking at a lot of different ways in which we can do that. That doesn’t ultimately mean that all of those people will be made redundant. It means that it enables us to open a discussion with them, and with outside bodies, to look at how we can deal with things differently.
PS: Yes. It’s unlikely though, if you’ve got to make all these cuts, that it’s going to be without job cuts, isn’t it?
PP: There will certainly be, because some of the work that we’re doing is altering the management structure, and there will certainly be roles in management that will change, where we combine teams together to make it more efficient and effective, and maybe losing a management post in relation to that. So yes, ultimately at the end of the consultation, there possibly will be redundancies coming out of this. Don’t forget also I’m holding a lot of vacancies. And the vacant posts form part of that restructure. So in other words it will be not recruiting into posts that we currently have on our … .
PS: Effectively .. and that’s effectively job cuts if you’re not filling posts.
PP: Of course it is. Yes. Yes. It’s about doing things differently though, to make it more efficient and effective for you the public at the end of the day. And that’s the really important thing for the Council.
PS: Is this just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to job cuts at Peterborough City Council, do you think, Paul?
PP: There’s a lot of work that we will do once the Comprehensive Spending Review comes out on the Twentieth of October. But what you wouldn’t want our council to do is to be sitting back and not planning for that to come forward. We know that the Government is talking about anywhere between twenty five and forty per cent cuts. And we as a council have not been waiting for that to come. We’ve been really proactive about the work that we’ve done in making ourselves more efficient and effective.
PS: So you must have been talking behind closed doors about job cuts, and what possibilities there are. You know, forty per cent ..
PP: We’re working really hard to look at different ways in which we can do our business. Because the main important thing for us and for our councillors, most importantly, is that we don’t alter the service to you, the public. Because this is very much an internal consultation, which ultimately you may not see any difference externally on that service view. But there will be some things that will have to change. Yes there is no doubt about that.
PS: What potential job losses have you been talking about? Because if there are forty per cent cuts that would be Armageddon for Peterborough City Council, the same way it’s Armageddon for Cambridgeshire Police.
PP: Well all local authorities are looking at how they’re going to manage this situation. I’d like to think that the business transformation work we’ve been doing as a council over the last five years puts us in a much stronger position. And yes there will be a number of different ways in which we deliver services. You know that we’ve moved our culture and leisure service out to a trust, an excellent way of redefining the way in which we do business. So not necessarily cuts, it’s about delivering business in a different way.
PS: But them trusts have made people redundant, haven’t they?
PP: There will be redundancies. As you already know, we as a council have been through a number of redundancies already, on the lead up towards becoming .. on the lead up to what the Government are actually going to bring in, which is ultimately a cut to our overall grant. Some of the other things that we’re working really strongly on at the moment, because you know our grant is based around the census, so what I’m working on at the moment is making sure we have the right census figures. Because ultimately a lot of the problems that the city has is the hidden population that don’t feature on our census, which isn’t featured in our grant. And that will support the policing side as well.
PS: How difficult is it for you to keep up staff morale with all this going on?
PP: It’s very difficult. One of my staff now, my Head of Service, has cancelled his leave. He’s taking a week out just to have fifty nine one to one consultations with all the staff in relation to this, to get their views, their ideas, their opinion. This is difficult times. Our staff will look and monitor what’s going across the public sector. We know that obviously all the different quangos that the Government have cut, all the type of public secor jobs and roles that we all fulfil. And of course it is difficult times for us. But we’re trying to work as closely as we possibly can with our staff. Because very often the best ideas will come from the shop floor. And the changes we need to make will come from them. The other key thing for us is to work with the union. So we’ve been working really closely with the unions about how we can make this change as painless as possible.
PS: But there will be job cuts.
PP: There will definitely be job cuts within my Directorate as a result of this consultation. What they look like at the moment I’m hoping to minimise as much as I possibly can.
PS: Paul thank you for that. Paul Phillipson Director of Operations at Peterborough City Council, confirming there will be job cuts. Can’t quite say how many, but with these forty per cent cutbacks perhaps twenty five per cent cutbacks coming in, it could look pretty bleak for some of the staff at Peterborough City Council. It might be a very different Peterborough City Council in the next two or three years to what we’ve been used to.