UNISON Sounds Warning Over Council Change Programme

The programme aims to deliver savings of £4.5m, mainly through the loss of up to 150 jobs.

UNISON representatives from Central and East Berkshire branch attended Wokingham Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 11 July to raise concerns about the Council’s 21st Century Change Programme.

The 21st Century Change Programme aims to modernise the way services are delivered, improve customer service and deliver savings of over £4m with a reduction of between 100 – 150 posts.

The Council states that its main consultant, Ignite, has successfully delivered this new operating model at other local authorities. This is misleading as Wokingham Borough Council is the first unitary Council (with adult and children’s social care services and education) to be involved. The programme involves a completely new operating model, major investment in new IT combined with a 10%-15% reduction in posts.

UNISON welcomed the opportunity to speak directly to Councillors and appreciates the challenging questions which were put to senior managers at the meeting in relation to Phase 1 of the programme. However, a number of UNISON’s key concerns were not addressed by the Committee.

These include:

  • Who made the decision to appoint the Council’s consultants, Ignite?
  • Was there any public consultation on this major change programme?
  • Did the Council assess the impact of the changes on vulnerable groups?
  • What evidence is there that these changes have worked in other Councils?
  • How will the Council manage risk and measure the costs and benefits of the programme?

UNISON will continue to press for answers to key questions about the 21st Century Council programme.

It will also seek constructive dialogue with the Council’s political leaders and management to ensure that lessons are learned from Phase 1 of the programme and staff affected in Phase 2 are given the information and support they need to make decisions about their futures.

UNISON recognises that major changes, including job losses, are inevitable if the Council is to achieve the huge financial savings necessary as a result of the Government’s austerity programme.

However, these changes will only succeed if the Council follows agreed procedures and ensures that residents and staff are consulted and treated with the respect they deserve.