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Double blow for Wirral Council staff revealed in chief's email
COUNCIL staff have received a double blow in an email from their new chief executive.
A scheme to top-up wages of lower-paid workers has been shelved and staff have been told future compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out – although job cuts will come only as a last resort.
Graham Burgess, who officially started work on September 3, sent the bad news to the workforce on Monday – then went on holiday for two weeks of “pre-booked annual leave”.
For the last five years, the council has been carrying out a job evaluation review overseen by Unision in a bid to harmonise wages across a range of departments.
The first stage of this process found some workers were being underpaid and they received payments to make up the balance.
It now appears further progress with the scheme has been halted.
Mr Burgess’s email states: “The evaluation phase has now been completed, however it would not be prudent given the council’s budget position to make any further progress at this time as we simply cannot afford to do so.
“As I have previously explained, a restructure of the council will shortly be undertaken and once that has been completed, we will be in a position to resume the process.”
The bleak prospect of job cuts is also addressed in Mr Burgess’s message: “Some of the feedback I received after my last message highlighted that concerns are being raised by some staff about compulsory redundancies.
“The major budget problems we are experiencing due to the reductions in our Government grant mean that I am unable to rule out redundancies but I can promise that we are doing our very best to avoid them.
“Compulsory redundancies will always be a last resort and we are implementing a range of other measures to try to avoid going down that route.”
The chief executive goes on to tell his workforce: “As you know, we face an unprecedented budget challenge in the form of a potential £17m projected overspend for this year.
“The potential consequences that would arise from failing to put this right are extremely serious.”
The authority has already introduced a freeze on all “non essential” items to try to balance the books.
This proved immediately controversial as it put a stop to neighbourhood grants being paid to dozens of community groups to fund local projects and also ended the introduction of 20mph zones in all Wirral’s residential roads.
The chief’s message to staff ends: “I understand some of this information may be difficult to hear but it is important to me that I am honest and upfront with you.
"I am committed to keeping you informed as things develop and very much hope that you feel able to share any concerns or comments you may have.
“Unfortunately I have two weeks pre-booked annual leave however David Armstrong, acting deputy chief executive, will be carrying on with these messages until I return.”