John Harrison on The Cuts

Executive Director for Strategic Resources John Harrison gives a snap reaction to the news that Peterborough City Council will lose more than thirty million pounds from its funding over the next four years.

19:22 Wednesday 20th October 2010
Drivetime BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: John Harrison is the Executive Director for Strategic Resources. Just remind you of the headline there this afternoon outlined by the Chancellor George Osborne, is the one that’s seven point one per cent cuts to council funding over the next four years. John Harrison, you knew it was coming, but did you expect it to be this bad? .. Did you realise that it was going to be this bad?
JOHN HARRISON: Well we’ve been planning with our councillors since the beginning of June, and we’ve been working on cuts between twenty five and forty per cent, so this is about middle range, that we can see from the headlines.
AB: Yes because I think fundamentally it comes out to something like a thirty three per cent cut, doesn’t it, to your funding over the next few years?
JH: Yes. So, you know, that’s a lot of money that they’re taking away from the council taxpayers of Peterborough.
AB: You’re the money man, effectively, at Peterborough City Council. Do you know how many millions that equates to roughly?
JH: Yes. We think that next year’s probably going to be about ten million. And four years time after that it could be .. well it’s going to be over thirty million pounds we’ll have lost here.
AB: How do you square that off?
JH: That’s the work we’ve been doing with the councillors. We knew these were on the horizon. We just weren’t quite sure of the detail. And so they’ve been planning ahead ,continuing the drive to keep down all the overheads. You heard a lot being said today about making everything as efficient as possible, and we’ve been doing that for years, but continue it. And then the members are looking at different options then of how we balance the books. You know, we’re no different to any other company. If your money isn’t coming in, you’ve got to cut your expenditure somehow.
AB: And these are decisions to be made I suppose over the next few weeks and months, but clearly as we all know, job losses are almost inevitable.
JH: Yeah. Council will be going public with all its budget savings, proposals, on the 29th October. And inevitably we’ll be looking at how many people we can employ.
AB: These are very difficult times. Do you think your authority has got fat over the last few years, in terms of have you been employing people left right and centre? Consequently are there plenty of people you can just get rid of?
JH: No. We certainly haven’t been employing people left right and centre. Matter of fact, we’ve been reducing the number of people we’ve been employing over that period of time. What we try to do, we work really closely with the unions, and I can’t praise them (enough?) for the work that they do wih us. But you know we make sure that we do it well with them. we look after our workforce. We’ll hold posts vacant if we know we’re going to have to make reductions in areas. The last thing we want to do is make people redundant. People who are made redundant haven’t got a job. Their whole quality of life disappears. And they haven’t got money in their pocket, which affects the local communities. So people on the High Street become less and less, businesses suffer, so it’s not in anybody’s interest to make people redundant. So you’ve got to manage this as best as possible, and look after people.
AB: Thank you for joining us.