HUNDREDS of jobs will go at Suffolk County Council – but staff are not doing enough to prepare for the brave new world.

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That is the blunt message to thousands of council staff from chief executive Andrea Hill in her latest newsletter.

Mrs Hill warns that while the council has developed a policy entitled “A New Strategic Direction,” staff have been far too slow in putting it into practice.

She said: “I am more convinced than ever that our new strategic direction is right.

“We spent many months co-authoring it and sharing it. My concern is that we are not delivering it.

“People know the ‘burning platform’ of financial crisis is coming, but we are acting as if it’s off the shores of Louisiana – too remote to affect us.”

She warned that losing jobs was not the answer to the council’s financial problems – a gap of £153 million is expected to open up in the council’s budget by 2013.

She said in the newsletter: “This will mean fewer people will work for the council in the future. There will be job losses. I don’t know how many – if I did, I would tell you – but we need to reduce our staffing costs.

“Just reducing our headcount however won’t close our budget gap: I thought it would, but I was wrong. If we cut our managers by 30% – that’s about 400 posts – it would save £55m. So cutting jobs alone is not enough.

“I don’t expect us to be running a big redundancy programme because we can’t afford it.”

Mrs Hill says she wants to reduce the demand on the council’s services: “To prevent the £153m budget gap, we need to switch off the demand for our services in two ways: by addressing the root cause of social problems and fixing them once and for all; and by building social capital to strengthen communities to help themselves.

“Where services still need to be provided, we will work collaboratively with district councils, health, police and the voluntary sector to join up services across the public sector using lean systems thinking to cut out waste and meet real (rather than perceived) customer needs.

“Currently the council is not fit to do this.”

Opposition leader Kathy Pollard was surprised by the tone of the newsletter.

She said: “I’m not sure what she means about switching off the demand for services – how do you switch off the demand for children’s services? How do you stop people becoming old and frail? Do you stop them from using libraries? It just doesn’t make sense.

“And we pointed out that the council took on a lot of new members of staff last year. Is that all going to be pushed into reverse?”

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke has said that the county badly needs to change the way it operates, and that Mrs Hill was hired because of her skill at coming up with radical solutions to serious problems facing the county.

“That is why we felt we had to pay for the best when it came appointing a new chief executive,” he said.

The full text of Mrs Hill’s newsletter:

Reshaping the council: A call to action

On Friday, whilst the country was excitedly watching the outcome of the General Election and who might form the next government, there was as much energy and excitement in a community hall in Kesgrave. Why? Because 175 managers from across the council were working out how to implement the New Strategic Direction.

We know a new government signals a new era of financial austerity. With the General Election Campaign over, politicians of all parties will need to get real about the size of the spending cuts to come. I’m not expecting our budgets to increase for the next 6 years, but our costs will. If we do nothing, our budget gap will be £153 million by 2013.

I am more convinced than ever that our New Strategic Direction is right. We spent many months co-authoring it and sharing it. My concern is that we are not delivering it. Friday’s workshop proved that at least 175 colleagues understand the direction. People know the ‘burning platform’ of financial crisis is coming, but we are acting as if it’s off the shores of Louisiana – too remote to affect us. So Friday was a call to action – the start of a new programme of change that will reduce our costs.

The New Strategic Direction is about radically redesigning public services across Suffolk to achieve the Suffolk Story priorities in the new, reduced, financial context. It is about challenging our spend and dramatically reducing our costs. To prevent the £153m budget gap, we need to switch off the demand for our services in two ways: by addressing the root cause of social problems and fixing them once and for all; and by building social capital to strengthen communities to help themselves. Where services still need to be provided, we will work collaboratively with district councils, health, police and the voluntary sector to join up services across the public sector using lean systems thinking to cut out waste and meet real (rather than perceived) customer needs. Currently the council is not fit to do this: that’s why I wrote ‘Reshaping the Council’ to challenge us into a new way of thinking. That’s why I’ve brought in a new Director for Organisational Change (Max Wide) to develop a hardnosed programme to implement the New Strategic Direction.

I believe the council needs to change. It is too slow, too complex, over elaborate, risk adverse, designed more for the regulator than the customer, and now – in a new financial climate – too expensive. I know it will need to be leaner, smaller, cheaper, more creative, and more innovative. That means we need to radically rethink what we do and how we do it. We have to develop more commercial skills to understand our costs better and drive them down.

This will mean fewer people will work for the council in the future. There will be job losses. I don’t know how many – if I did, I would tell you – but we need to reduce our staffing costs. I heard a rumour last week that some people thought if they got on the invite list for Friday’s workshop, their jobs were safe. Not true. Those who attended heard me tell them that. I want our most creative, innovative, hard working colleagues to stay in the council. I’ll try to encourage that to happen. Just reducing our headcount however won’t close our budget gap: I thought it would, but I was wrong. If we cut our managers by 30% - that’s about 400 posts – it would save £55m. So cutting jobs alone is not enough.

I don’t expect us to be running a big redundancy programme because we can’t afford it. Nor do I think we have the public sympathy to spend taxpayers’ money on paying people to leave. So we’ll need to think more creatively about how we get staffing costs down – we certainly can’t afford to keep recruiting people (we recruited 1,800 new staff last year) or to allow non-performance to go unchallenged.

The great thing about Friday’s workshop is it showed managers across the council know that the council needs to change. The reality of the financial crisis is well known. The need for change is accepted - what we now need to focus upon is how to change. How to “de-treacle” the council without alienating the regulators. How to radically rethink whether we should still deliver all services. How to reduce demand for our services in the future. How to rethink our current assumptions.

As a result of Friday’s workshop, we are now building a programme of projects to reduce costs and start transforming services. We will start with the ‘big ticket items’ most likely to deliver the biggest savings. The projects will have robust business cases – tightly managed to ensure hard cash savings. We will resource the projects with teams of people from across the council to challenge current departmental mindsets and to support colleagues thinking out of the box. It is this programme that will set out what we think the council collectively needs to do to deliver the New Strategic Direction.

Andrea Hill

Chief Executive

13 comments

  • Nothing said about Rights of Way in Ipswich and that is going to cost a bomb over the next few years. Public Inquiries about contested RoW due to the very incomplete Definitive Map in Ipswich will keep loads of lawyers in luxury for the rest of their lives. I could fix the problem quite easily if funded. 
turtill@gmail.com

    Report this comment

    Peter Turtill

    Friday, May 21, 2010

  • Today's topic: 'How to motivate staff and boost their morale'.

    Report this comment

    Percy Flage

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • and she was value for money?

    Report this comment

    ITSFISKO

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

  • I wonder if she will include herself in these job cuts, when things go wrong it's always the staff that suffers, normally when things go wrong, it's because of bad organisation from the top.

    Report this comment

    Keith Drury

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • yawwwwn!! The deal has already been done people deal with it! The contract was agreed and it would be too expensive to cancel the contract or terminate her employment. We all knew there would be massive cuts accross the country - don't understand why everyone is kicking off!!

    Report this comment

    McLovin !!

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • It was only a few weeks ago (March 2010) that SCC was being lauded as the best County Council to work for and Andrea Hill was paying tribute to the staff's enthusiasm, energy and determination! 
 
So surely it's a bit rich for her now to be claiming that staff have been far too slow to put her New Strategic Direction into practice. 
 
If she wants savings then the very first cutback should be on her desire to by-pass normal tendering processes and spend another £122,000 on airy fairy strategic consultants. £400,000 has already been wasted on Fields of Learning so there is no need to throw yet more money away on "blue sky thinking". 
 
What we need is far less "strategy" and a great deal more commonsense. If you want to alleviate the "burning platform of financial crisis" Andrea, then take a voluntary 10% pay cut and show that leadership means doing without those little luxuries like a diary secretary as well as a PA. 
 


    Report this comment

    Sally Wainman

    Friday, May 21, 2010

  • She dosen't say anything about herself being paid more than the Prime Minister!

    Report this comment

    The Holy Grail

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • They could follow central government example and take a 5% wage cut, after all, what's 5% cut from £220,000.00 ?.

    Report this comment

    DOUGLAS POOLEY

    Friday, May 21, 2010

  • Oh well! at least the giles statue is better positioned and we have some rare tree's planted on queen street - The running of our council is a joke and now it has come back to bite some of their own on the bum! £550,000!!! how many staff could have kept their jobs?

    Report this comment

    C D

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • I agree with opposition leader Kathy Pollard, how do you stop demand? there will always be demand its about how you manage that demand. Mrs Hill's extortionate salary along with that of the new Director and the 1800 new staff employees must play some part in the budget deficit. I think a unitary council for the entire county pooling funding and resources is the way forward.

    Report this comment

    Ross W

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • Putting the question of her wage to one side as I think its a bit of a white elephant really, there are some interesting ideas in there, anyone else worried that Kathy Pollard seems constantly unable to understand anything which the council says or suggests... seems clear to me, develop, create and support localised solutions to problems, to try and lessen the demand of centrally provided services which may well cost a lot more to provide. If its all too complex for you Kathy, should you really be a councillor at all?

    Report this comment

    Fat Lady Sings

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • One can only await her contract coming to an end with baited breath to see if, finally, common sense prevails and the position is given a more realistic salary. Talk of paying exorbitantly high wages for this kind of job to “attract” the right people is rubbish. Whatever the wage, there are always capable people prepared to move up and do a job. Hopefully with a new government we will see an end to the smarmy attitude of those currently smug and cushioned by their contracts.

    Report this comment

    Sarky Sage

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

  • Hopefully her wages will be cut, more in-line with the "normal" people. 
 
Would mean a bit more to spend on the poor roads.

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Man

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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