Proposals to close all Shropshire Council buildings on Friday afternoons and force staff to work from home one day a month are facing criticism.
In a letter sent to staff yesterday morning, Clive Wright, Shropshire County Council’s Chief Executive, said he had been asked by the council’s Cabinet to enforce a spending freeze across the council.
He said that the council, which is facing an overspend of £6.9 million, will be asking staff to work from home on the last Friday of every month, beginning in November.
The letter went on to say that from January 2019, the council will enforce a closure of all buildings at noon on Friday and ask staff to work on a mobile or agile basis.
A statement issued by the Leader of Shropshire Council said the spending freeze was being introduced to get this year’s budget under control and that the council was encouraging staff to work more flexibly as part of its transition to mobile and agile working.
Councillor Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“A decision to introduce a spending freeze across the council follows the need to get this year’s budget under control, as we always do, despite the pressures.
“An ever-increasing number of vulnerable people need support which has meant that our adults and children’s social care services are under more pressure than ever. Despite allocating a further £10 million to Social Care for 2018/19, increasing demand in this area now suggests another £5 million is required this year; funding that we just don’t have. This isn’t just a Shropshire issue, it’s happening all over the country. But, here in Shropshire, the costs per person for care remain low, whilst quality is high, and we want this to continue.
“We had hoped that the Budget would help with recognised pressures in social care. We expect to get some additional funding but it isn’t going to be anywhere near the additional £15 million cost for this year alone. We don’t know how much we will get, as that hasn’t been announced yet, but we know it is a ‘one off’ rather than in the our base budget for next year and the years after.
“Spending freezes delay expenditure on things like buying new equipment, where this can happen. We will of course try to minimise the impact on frontline services.
“We will also be encouraging staff to work more flexibly as part of our transition to mobile and agile working. We are not closed for business, we will simply be working in a different way.”
GMB says it’s a bizarre move
GMB, the union for local council workers, has hit out at what they are calling ‘bizzare’ proposals.
GMB says that the proposals had not been consulted on or discussed with trade unions and have left council staff with no idea as to what they would mean or how they would practically work.
Stuart Richards, GMB Senior Organiser for Public Services, said:
“Following the financial collapse of Northamptonshire County Council, we’ve seen councils adopt increasingly desperate measures to cope with the Tory government’s austerity cuts that have seen services cut to the bone.
“This bizarre move by Shropshire County Council comes completely out of the blue. There has been no consultation or discussion with trade unions and no one has an idea as to what this would actually mean for staff or how it would practically work.
“GMB has requested an urgent meeting with the Council to try and understand what on earth they are doing here. We’ll be consulting our members closely on what steps we’ll be taking in response.”