Thursday, 18 November 2010

Budget discussions at Cabinet

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet met today and recommended an emergency budget for the authority. This will now be presented to Full Council on 30 November.

I attempted to raise a number of issues about the extent of the cuts, how the “unavoidable budget pressures” had been calculated, and whether the cuts to certain services were appropriate or even deliverable.

No further information was forthcoming at the meeting, but the MK Group is continuing to challenge those parts of the budget papers where the detail is lacking or has yet to be prepared.

At the meeting, I also asked about the Cabinet’s proposal to revisit the pay and conditions of staff and asked that this be addressed sympathetically. One of the things that I spoke out against was any change to severance packages for people who might be made redundant. These were changed only last year and I feel that it would be morally indefensible to modify the arrangements in any way so that people losing their jobs in the future would get less than colleagues who are leaving now or have already left.

When the unitary council was created there were approaching 12,000 staff (not including schools). It is now less than 10,000 and, if the projected cuts occur, this will fall to closer to 8,000.

But, at the same time, there has been an increase in the number of staff earning over £50,000, up from 127 in 2007-2008 to 143 in 2010.

I told the meeting that while staff numbers are falling, it must be questioned why the the cost of high-earners is rising, adding that any review of pay and conditions must protect the less-well-off and rebalance the fairness of the wage bill.

And at this time, it means addressing other potential savings such as consultants, and expensive interim and agency staff.

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