Shropshire Council work at home policy: Opposition leaders lash out at changes
Staff at Shropshire Council will be put under 'stress and pressure' after being told to work from home to save money, it was claimed today.
The leaders of opposition groups on the council believe a new cost-cutting scheme is unfair on employees.
Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the Lib Dems, said he was not surprised the authority would be bringing in a new working method at the end of the month – but said he was shocked at a lack of consultation.
The council's chief executive Clive Wright contacted all staff by letter yesterday to tell them of the changes.
Labour leader Councillor Alan Mosley said it was "despicable" that the Conservative-led council had resorted to such "dire" measures which were the "product of poor administration".
He said: “This represents a further indication of the crisis in services at Shropshire Council. There appears to be a panic, with a freeze on expenditure and a 'lock out' at various times for all workers.
"The morale of many hard working staff is already at rock bottom and this is a further threat to the services they provide for residents and their own security.
"Confidence in the council will plummet and residents will be concerned about their services, especially for the most vulnerable.
"With massive overspends predicted and minimal reserves the council is obviously in a perilous state with the austerity policy handed down by their government and a poor administration entirely to blame.”
Councillor Evans said a decision to close the council offices from noon on Friday would lead to extra stress for the vulnerable and elderly.
"If people are going to want help or assistance they are not going to be able to access it. Where are they going to go?," he said.
"I am not sure how all the staff are about this and if they have been equipped to work from home. Have they all had the training they will need? How are people going to be available on the telephone when they are working from home?
"I think this is going to bring additional stress to some workers. The council is not looking after its employees."
The council hopes the new working pattern, closure of council buildings and an audit of printing costs will go towards cutting its overspend.
Shropshire Council leader responds
Today, Shropshire Council leader Councillor Peter Nutting said: “This week’s decision to introduce a spending freeze across the council follows the need to get this year’s budget under control, as we always do, despite the pressures.
“An ever-increasing number of vulnerable people need support which has meant that our adults and children’s social care services are under more pressure than ever. Despite allocating a further £10 million to Social Care for 2018/19, increasing demand in this area now suggests another £5 million is required this year; funding that we just don’t have.
"This isn’t just a Shropshire issue, it’s happening all over the country. But, here in Shropshire, the costs per person for care remain low, whilst quality is high, and we want this to continue.
“We had hoped that the Budget would help with recognised pressures in social care. We expect to get some additional funding but it isn’t going to be anywhere near the additional £15 million cost for this year alone.
"We don’t know how much we will get, as that hasn’t been announced yet, but we know it is a ‘one off’ rather than in the our base budget for next year and the years after.
“Spending freezes delay expenditure on things like buying new equipment, where this can happen. We will of course try to minimise the impact on frontline services.
“We will also be encouraging staff to work more flexibly as part of our transition to mobile and agile working. We are not closed for business, we will simply be working in a different way.”