Posted tagged ‘redundancy’

Transformation through restructure

May 17, 2011

How many staff will fall?

May is here and many local authorities will have just gone through the first of what is sure to be a number of major restructures to take place over the next three or four years.

At the end of it almost 140,000 local government jobs that once existed no longer exist and a large number of local government employees find themselves redundant and forcibly retired.

However, there are many ways to skin a cat and this set of restructures has demonstrated significantly different approaches from different councils.

In fear of generalising (but doing it anyway) broadly speaking there were two approaches:

1)      The ‘protect our staff’ model

In this model every effort is made by the local authority to find their staff a job. Although the new service structures and job descriptions will be significantly different to what was being done by the current staff lower thresholds will be set to ensure staff are able to transition into the new structure.

Under this model there is no attempt to ensure the removal of ‘deadwood’, by which we mean staff that are not performing up to the level they should be. Nor is there any effort to bring new blood into the organisation through the creation of new posts. The primary aim is to limit, at all costs, the number of redundancies.

In one example I heard about the primary determinant of whether or not a member of staff would receive a job in the new structure was their salary. So, if you were ‘overpaid’ in the old structure that would continue and if you were ‘underpaid’ then tough. This disadvantages those on short term secondments or who are acting up into managerial roles (who tend to be newer in the organisation and keener to get on) and advantaged those who’d got high salaries by dint of spending a long time in the organisation.

This model reassures staff in the organisation during the transition and keeps as many people as possible in post. It assumes that the authority has consistently worked to develop talent and performance managed those staff who are not performing up to standard and that development programmes are in place for all staff going forward.

2)      The ‘we’ll design a structure and then try to get the best staff we can model’

In this model the council designs a structure that they feel will meet the authority’s needs going forward. All staff are told they are at risk of redundancy and have to apply for the jobs in the new structure. If the staff are good enough for the new roles they are appointed but if not the council is comfortable about going out to external recruitment.

In this model ‘deadwood’ is definitely gone and ‘slightly ok wood’ have to prove their worth in interviews.

I know of one council where a team of 15 was reduced to 10 and yet only 7 of them got a job with three posts being advertised externally.

The disadvantages of this model are that it is expensive; making a lot of people redundant is very costly, as is recruitment. It is also very destabilising for the local authority; staff feel under threat for most of the consultation period and subsequently you need to bed in a whole load of new employees.

It is also largely a one off trick; if the local authority has to do it too often then it is evidence of them failing in many other ways.

I don’t know which model is best but here’s my guess:

In one or two year’s time the authorities in model 2 will be far better off than those in model 1. Carrying staff who aren’t quite up to it might seem like a sensible option in the midst of a horrible series of redundancies but long term having exactly the right staff in post can only be of benefit to the authority and local people.

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The first cut is the deepest, but the second will hurt more

April 15, 2011

Another phrase to be banned

On Twitter during the week we had a discussion about the jargon and phrases that local government officers use on a regular basis, and those which the LGA feel should be on their ‘banned’ list.  Some, such as ‘engagement’ and ‘consultation’ are themselves not bad words, although the context they are used in often confuses their meaning.

Others however have a deserving place on the list.  Phrases such as ‘citizen touchpoints’ and ‘thought shower’ have no place in the normal world, and certainly not when talking with local people.  Jargon has its uses; it can convey complex issues quickly and easily between those who understand what it means, but it can also seriously exclude those who are unfamiliar with it (assuming that is that ‘exclude’ isn’t itself a banned word).

A new phrase seems to be entering the office at the moment which I think should be added to that list; ‘cash envelope’.  Pictures of seedy men in raincoats leaving packages of used bills behind public toilet cisterns instantly spring to mind for some reason, when instead nothing sexier than balance sheets and budget books is being discussed.  Apparently services are all trying to ‘push the cash envelope’ to gather as much money to them as possible in the short term in order to store it away for the long term; like a squirrel burying nuts in the autumn, the idea is that when more painful cuts are to be made in the next financial year there will at least be something left to cut.


Needing a cover story

February 10, 2011

Hiding under the water...

We’ve spoken about shared services before and suggested that whilst they are a good thing they are not a panacea for all of local government’s cost cutting needs.

However, this week I discovered one of the other reasons shared services can be successful; and I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

I remember that when the Euro was introduced there were lots of stories in the papers about how small business people were taking advantage in the change of pricing to put a little extra profit into their margins. The change of currency provided an opportunity for those who wanted to make other changes without people noticing.

The potential for the same to happen with shared services was brought home to me this week. I was speaking to a consultant specialising in southern councils and she told me that one of the reasons she liked shared services was that the two councils could use them to make wider changes that would otherwise be out of reach.

When I pressed her about this (I’m a curious type) she told me that what she wanted to do was reduce the grades of staff who were doing the roles in question. As she said, junior staff can do the same job as those who’ve been here a long time but do so for a lot less money.

She also wanted to reduce some of the ‘managers’ to the role of ‘team leaders’.

I guess I have nothing against any of these things if they need to happen. But, surely these are not savings that are dependent on, or even brought about through the shared service?


Guilty feelings

January 18, 2011

Feeling guilty about guilty feelings

Today I properly start my new job.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, as I started it yesterday, but this is the first day when I’ll actually be sitting at my new desk.  Effectively I’ll be doing the same thing as I was before, but in a different service and inexplicably at a higher grade.

And do you know what emotion is coursing through my veins?  Surely I should be happy to be employed when so many others aren’t; relieved that I can continue to support my family; excited about the new challenges ahead perhaps, or even chuffed that I’m valued by others.

Nope.  I feel guilt.


Review of the year

December 22, 2010

The first rule of WLLG; don't tell anyone who writes WLLG

It is coming to the end of the year and the WeLoveLocalGovernment team are planning to take a well earned break between now and the New Year (don’t worry though; we’ve planned some little surprises to keep you entertained throughout the festive period).

And as the end of the year is coming it seemed appropriate to take stock of the year that has been, both for us and for local government. So, in true top of the pops style here follows, in no particular order, our top ten reflections on the year:

1) It would be hard to look past the Comprehensive Spending Review as the single most important moment for local government this year. In our opinion the spending cuts were, and still are, a big opportunity for local government. However, in the short term they have led to rushed decisions and the redundancy of a lot of staff who in any other circumstances local government would be nuts to let go.

2) As a blog site nothing was more exciting than our debut writing on the Guardian website; although our post on radical Chief Executives could be politely described as somewhat controversial. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed writing the blog and took a certain pleasure in provoking a little bit of controversy; derived straight from the front line.

3) All of us found ourselves facing redundancy, for some we were facing it for the first time in our lives. I don’t think any of us would describe ourselves as particularly naive and we knew what was coming. However, the way it happened, the effect it had on previously reasonable colleagues and the trouble many Local Authorities had at making the whole thing stick was beyond our worst expectations or fears.


A quick joke

December 6, 2010

There was a right old mix up today so we didn’t manage to get a post up on the internet: it’s written, just not up…

We (I) apologise for it was our (my) fault. In it’s place please find a short joke with local government gallows humour attached.

Two local Government workers are walking through a forest when they notice a bear coming for them. Quick as a flash one of them bends down and puts on some trainers.

‘You don’t think you can outrun a bear do you?’ said his colleague.

‘I don’t need to’ replied the trainer wearing officer, ‘I just need to outrun you!’

And in case you missed it in this humorous metaphor the bear is redundancy and the two council workers are on a competitive assimilation against each other. It’s not much but us Local Government workers aren’t renowned for our sense of humour.

Proper post to follow tomorrow (we hope!)

Dumped by text

December 2, 2010

Any excuse to put a picture of Eric Pickles with a knife!

Sometimes there are stories from our Local Authorities which we choose not to write. There are many reasons for this; we don’t want to embarrass our employers or give the impression that we don’t both enjoy our jobs and believe that our local authority is providing excellent public services that people really value.

However, where a story is indicative of the problems facing the sector right now and where we can keep the authority and ourselves anonymous it makes sense to tell it; even if we do so rather cautiously.

Today is one of those days.

As the more observant of you will have noticed most of us who write for this blog have found our way onto the redundancy list of our respective local authorities. However, in my case this happened in a somewhat less than conventional way.

As has been mentioned in other places the cuts to local authority budgets have come deep and fast. My authority had planned to announce the details of our restructure at a series of all-staff meetings. However, there was too much work to do so the announcement was delayed for a few days. It was then delayed again and again and as is natural the rumours circulated over when we would find out.

When we did find out, it happened in a slightly unconventional way:

We were told of our possible redundancy by e-mail.