THE leader of Shropshire Council has defended the controversial firing and re-hiring of all 6,500 employees on lower wages as “the right thing to do”.
Conservative councillor Keith Barrow from Trefonen has defended the action, saying he believes it is the morally correct decision in the face of Government spending cuts.
“If we were in the private sector we might have simply cut the jobs needed to make the savings,” said Cllr Barrow. “But being in the public sector means we have to think about the effect of this, which would include not only people losing their jobs, but signing on and spending less in the local economy. I really do believe this is the right thing to do.”
Dismissal letters have been sent informing all staff they will lose their jobs on September 30.
They can return the following day only if they consent to a 5.4 per cent salary reduction and changes to sickness benefits and holiday entitlement.
“This is the last of the cuts,” said Cllr Barrow, “What I mean by that is we have now cut everything there is to cut, but we still have to find more savings. The only way we will be able to find those after this is by changing the way we do things.
“Salaries will go up again at some point in the future. I really believe the most important thing for now is that people are able to keep their jobs.
“I’ve been made redundant in the past myself so I know how that feels and while I wouldn’t want to receive one of these letters, I know I would have rather been given the option of everyone taking a small cut rather than large numbers losing their jobs altogether.”
Shropshire Council has already cut away a third of its management, saving around £4million, with the remaining management and councillors having taken large wage cuts. It is believed wage cuts for the remaining staff, being delivered in two rounds of 2.7 per cent, will generate a further £7million.
“We started at the very top and have worked down,” said Cllr Barrow.
“The lowest rungs on the ladder will not have their pay cut at all and if we are able to find alternative savings by the time of the second raft of cuts we will use that money to help more people on the lower rungs.”
Some council employees said they were deeply disappointed at the cuts, but more angry about the way they had been dealt with by their employer.
Cllr Barrow admitted the tone of the letters was not ideal, but said the language had been constructed on legal advice.
Unison are currently balloting on their response to the changes, but Cllr Barrow maintains they are preferable to the alternatives of large scale redundancies or an eight per cent rise in council tax.
“The reduction of Government funding is front loaded, meaning we have to find the biggest savings straight away,” he said.
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