Steep increase in council personnel

SINCE 1998 the number of people employed by Suffolk County Council has increased by more than 10 per cent, The Evening Star can reveal today.Five years ago the number employed by the council was 24,927.

SINCE 1998 the number of people employed by Suffolk County Council has increased by more than 10 per cent, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Five years ago the number employed by the council was 24,927. Today the total number on the payroll is 27,521.

That is more than the population of Felixstowe and nearly three times the population of Hadleigh.

While there has been some reorganisation within the head office, every department of the county council has seen an increase in staff – except the fire service.

That has seen its staff – both full and part-time – fall from 810 to 807.

The largest increase has been in education – which takes the lion's share of the council's overall budget.

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The numbers employed by that department have gone up from 17,935 in 1998 to 20,027 in 2002.

In 1998 this was made up of 7,585 teachers and lecturers and 10,350, other staff (including classroom assistants, cleaners and administrative staff).

Now there are 8,035 teachers and 11,992 other staff – that is three support staff for every two teachers.

A spokesman for the county council said the increase in non-teaching staff was mainly because of a big rise in the number of classroom assistants employed across Suffolk.

"We have been involved in a major effort to increase the number of classroom assistants over the last few years," he said.

"That is where the investment has been going – straight into the classrooms of the county's schools."

The number of people employed in social care – often given as a key reason for the increasing budget – has gone up from 4,311 to 4,647.

With an increasing number of elderly people needing care, that increase is hardly surprising – but there have also been significant increases in the number of people employed in areas like environment and transport, which includes planning.

This is despite county councils possibly losing some of their planning functions to regional bodies over the next few years under changes proposed by the government.

The only department to see a fall in the number of employees has been the fire service.

That has seen its staff fall by three between 1998 and 2002 – a fact which has poured petrol on the flames of already-strained relations because of the ongoing fire dispute.

"I'm gobsmacked to hear about an 18.5 per cent rise in council taxes," said Suffolk FBU secretary Paul Woolstenholmes.

"But I'm not surprised to hear we're the only service to have had a cut in numbers – that's the story of the fire service, cut after cut."

While the number of staff at County Hall has risen by more than 10 per cent, staff numbers at district and borough councils have increased much more modestly.

Between 1998 and 2002 the number employed by Ipswich council has gone up from 1,226 to 1,245.

nHave you got a story for us to investigate about one of Suffolk's councils. If so, let us know.

Call the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473-324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

N What do you think of this year's council tax rise? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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