Suffolk: County council made nearly 500 workers redundant last year

PUBLIC sector workers are being thrown on the “scrap heap” it was claimed today after it emerged nearly 500 county council workers were made redundant last year – at a cost of nearly �5million.

Compulsory and voluntary redundancies at Suffolk County Council jumped from 15 in 2009/10 to 469 in 2011/12, according to a Freedom of Information request.

The average pay-out per employee has also risen – from �6,054 to �10,660.

The 15 staff axed in 2009/10 received �90,463 in redundancy pay. In 2010/11 there were 204 redundancies, costing the taxpayer �2.1m, and in 2011/12 the cost of paying off the 469 staff who lost their jobs cost just over �4.9m.

The highest pay-off was �75,447, which was paid as part of an agreed redundancy to a worker in the property department.

Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance, said in order to reduce long term costs, the authority needed to make redundancy payments in the short term.

But Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour Group at the county council, labelled the increase in redundancies as “extraordinary”.

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He said: “The figure that is extraordinary is the number of redundancies in 2011/12. The county council is taking the opportunity to throw public sector workers on the scrap heap.

“It is the inability of the present government and county council to focus on the importance of public services, and is also a massive loss of expertise and experienced staff.”

Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “The county council, like other local authorities up and down the country, has to make significant savings in order to reduce the country’s financial deficit. We are committed to protecting frontline services and as such we have been making savings from the back office.

“We need to reduce the overall long term running cost of the council and in the short term this means some redundancy payments. However, in doing so we are also reducing the annual pay bill within the organisation.

“Through redundancies, we’ve already cut the annual pay bill for senior managers by over �1m in the last 18 months.”

Robert Oxley, campaign manager for TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils need to ensure that the size of the pay-outs don’t undermine the savings the redundancies are meant to create. Residents want to see their council tax spent on services, not golden goodbyes for staff on overly generous contracts.”

Further figures show that in the last three years there have been 39 compulsory and voluntary redundancies at Suffolk Constabulary, with pay-offs amounting to �648,022 – which works out as an average of �16,615 per employee.

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “Suffolk Constabulary is currently working to achieve savings of more than �17million by 2015 as a result of the government spending cuts. We have a comprehensive plan in place to meet these savings which has included introducing a new policing model, increased collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary and reducing overhead costs.

“As part of this programme, we have also had to make significant reductions in our pay budget. In order to protect frontline services and continue to provide the best possible policing service for the people of Suffolk, we have targeted the reorganisation of back-office functions and this has inevitably led to some redundancies.

“Our police staff are an invaluable part of our organisation, therefore redundancy is only considered as a last resort. We will always redeploy members of staff where possible into alternative roles within the Constabulary.”