Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Medway Councils job cuts, advice to staff and new Public toilets

Like all councils Medway council has had to deal with a cut in its expenditure and the best way is to perform efficiency savings.

It seems the council are adopting the slogan "Better for less." aimed at still providing excellent first line services whilst trimming the fat.

In the first phase 60 posts are to be axed- either absorbed into other areas or made redundant. Of redundancies, 30 are to be gone by January next year.

One move, published  in the "Medway News" is the slim lining of the telephone banks system as council strategists slim the numbers down from 130 and create a single call centre that will be able to deal with the majority of callers problems.
There will also be online tools for residents to use to help them with enquiries and even track the progress of your their enquiries through the system- much like Domino's.

Councillor Jarret says; "This part of the "Better for less"  programme will deliver major service improvements for people in Medway and will help deliver significant efficiency savings."

It all sounds really sparkly and I hope that it works. After all no one wants to see anyone lose their job however everyone wants public services protected and so a tough call has to be made.

From personal experience I am a little concerned. In a previous place of employment they streamlined through one number and at times caller volume exceeded capacity. On top of that they were then directed through to another department, which could have been done quicker on the old system. Also some callers found the system unfriendly and could not get online.

Tania Earnshaw, branch secretary of UNISON agrees; "I think it won't achieve better for less - It will achieve something for less. Its about cost cutting and its being done at speed."

Ms Earnshaw also points to the £15m that needs to be saved over five years and fears the council's silence over future measures means more job cuts to come.
I would urge the council to be as transparent as possible so as to belay any fears for jobs to the loyal workforce.
One of the ways they also need to be careful of would be the use of consultants. For example if they let go their tree surgeons who are on say £30k a year and then paying a them as consultants on a job, as private contractors they can charge more and thus cost the council more per year as a consultant than keeping them on payroll.

In other news, the council has prepared a briefing for its staff on how to live economically in the current times. Unfortunately what was a well meaning exercise has backfired and insulted those on the lower pay brackets. They were told they could save money by shopping at Asda or going on Haven Holidays where as those on a £55k salary were told there were private dental plans, shopping at Sainsbury's or head off to nicer holidays.
Other advice includes cheaper car insurance for those earning more and advice on catching the bus for those on lower wages!

Its true, living in your budget is difficult and advice can be helpful but people don't like to be reminded that they are at the bottom of the heap and that others are earning so much more. It causes resentment especially when people feel they are having their noses rubbed in it!

It seems the council scored an own goal on that one.

Finally, ever been out and had a few pints, left the pub and been caught short without a public convenience? Ever snuck into an ally and used the cover of shadows? I'll admit it... I have in my youth.

Ever had a £100 fine slapped on you by the local Constabulary? (Nope)

Now there is a solution to this problem. Semi temporary urinals will be deployed in Rochester High street and covered over except on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights which are the nights most people go out and have a few beverages.

Councillor Mike O'Brien, who holds the portfolio for community safety and customer contact said that
"This approach has been used in a number of other towns and cities in the UK and has helped to reduce the problem."

Many residents are a little indignant according to the Medway news. Rightly Kerry-Louise Dungey says;
What about women?

Another comment from Elaine Fyfe who owns the Francis Iles Gallery said that education was the key to stopping people from urinating in the street.
It doesn't take that much control to do it where you need to.

I am afraid I must beg to differ. A wise man once said to me that you do not buy beer you merely rent it from the establishment and you never need to go until after you've left the pub and then you are bursting. I'm not saying there should be wholesale urination in the street just showing a certain amount of understanding. I think these toilets are a great idea, they need little maintainace, little to vandalise, they are right where you need them and I really hope they work and a good investment by the council.

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