Concerns have been raised by an opposition councillor and a union to Oxfordshire County Council’s plan to save millions of pounds by cutting hundreds of jobs over the next two years.
The county council revealed a ‘transformation plan’ yesterday (Thursday) to save up to £58m over the next four years by cutting up to 890 jobs and administration costs.
Unison has raised concerns over the scale of proposals and has been in discussions with the council, stressing the need to protect jobs and services.
While the Liberal Democrats group at the council believes savings can be made but has fears about the impact on staff, the monitoring of the process and the costs of PwC reviewing the council’s workings.
Unison assistant general secretary Margaret Thomas said: “Unison is committed to protecting jobs and services, many vulnerable users prefer to speak to council staff for their support rather than machines.
“Our members cover a wide variety of crucial roles all areas of the council, and the term ‘back office’ can be misleading.
“Far from being less important, many vital council services simply could not function without these staff.
“As a large employer within the South East this will have significant impact regionally as well as locally.
“Unison will listen and act on our members feedback throughout the consultation and continue to engage with the employer to mitigate loses.”
The county council’s proposed changes, which include cutting administration costs, using new technology such as emergency drones and remote testing fire alarms, are estimated to save between £34-58m – with at least £33m needing to be saved.
But compulsory redundancies are expected, with a potential reduction of approximately 600-890 full time equivalent posts at the council over a two to three-year period.
Unison has already secured a commitment to retraining and redeployment wherever possible for staff potentially affected and will continue to campaign to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies.
The union is also concerned about the move to digital systems and automation rather than personal service.
Unison is requesting the new technology is introduced alongside the work that staff do, rather than replacing them, so a phased approach can be used which will benefit staff and public.
The Lib Dems believe improvements and efficiences of IT operations together with the county’s over complex customer service operations can bring savings
But the opposition councillors do have concerns and feel like the benefits of turning Oxfordshire into a unitary authority would bring greater benefits to residents.
The council is adamant the plan ‘protects and improves’ frontline services for residents and councillors will discuss it during September.