Coun­cil ‘staff at break­ing point’

Surrey Herald/News - - NEWS -

SUR­REY County Coun­cil has come un­der fire from its em­ploy­ees over ev­ery­thing from pay to a wish for more ‘team away­days’. The com­ments follow feed­back ses­sions be­tween Novem­ber and June, in­volv­ing 43 mem­bers of staff. Com­plaints in­cluded there be­ing ‘too much pres­sure on toi­lets and pho­to­copiers’ due to over­crowded of­fices; a de­mand­ing pub­lic; a de­sire for more com­pet­i­tive pay rates; and the as­ser­tion team days away ‘seem to have lost fund­ing’. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion ap­pears to be an is­sue. Ob­ser­va­tions high­lighted de­lays in the pro­vi­sion of train­ing, that reviews and ap­praisals were not al­ways car­ried out prop­erly and re­or­gan­i­sa­tion and cuts had cre­ated a fear of job in­sta­bil­ity. Paul Couch­man, sec­re­tary of Sur­rey County Uni­son, said: “We are not sur­prised by the re­sponses. “Our mem­bers are work­ing longer hours, with

also less staff do­ing more work than ever be­fore. “In real terms, Sur­rey County Coun­cil em­ploy­ees have seen their in­comes drop by be­tween 10% and 15% since 2010. The re­cent vote by county coun­cil­lors to in­crease their own al­lowances by up to 40%, while im­pos­ing a miserly £250 an­nual cost-of-liv­ing in­crease for 2015/16 for em­ploy­ees, has in­censed our mem­bers to the point where we are con­sid­er­ing bal­lot­ing for in­dus­trial ac­tion over next year’s pay set­tle­ment.” Mr Couch­man said the gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity drive has hit hard­est in lo­cal gov­ern­ment. “Although our mem­bers con­tinue to do an ex­cel­lent job, de­spite all the on­go­ing pres­sures, morale is low and fear for the fu­ture is wide­spread,” he said. “We are proud Sur­rey County Coun­cil has been at the fore­front of rolling out work­place ‘health checks’, with the trade unions. “Uni­son is se­ri­ously con­cerned that many teams are reach­ing or have reached break­ing point – and there ap­pears to be no light at the end of the tun­nel.” Some pos­i­tive feed­back did emerge from the con­sul­ta­tion. The re­port claimed staff said they en­joyed work­ing for the county coun­cil and were proud of their work, and that they feel they are treated with re­spect and val­ued for their ef­forts. The ac­tions to ad­dress em­ploy­ees’ feed­back will be dis­cussed in Novem­ber. “We need to en­sure that the so­lu­tions to th­ese prob­lems are re­ally ef­fec­tive,” said the coun­cil’s op­po­si­tion Lib­eral Demo­crat leader, Hazel Wat­son. Farn­ham Cas­tle was used on ‘away-days’ by the coun­cil’s se­nior staff three times in 2012, it was re­vealed last year. The au­thor­ity made head­lines after it paid more than £4,000 to take 26 se­nior politi­cians and of­fi­cers on a work­shop there, only for lo­cal gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary Eric Pick­les to blast coun­cils that stayed at ‘posh ho­tels’, for wast­ing money.

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