Devon County Council jobs freeze 'saves £30m'

A jobs freeze at Devon County Council has saved more than £30m, the authority says.

The Conservative-led council imposed the measure in November 2009, not replacing staff who had departed from non-frontline areas.

The authority saw a reduction in posts, from just over 9,000 on 31 March 2009 to 6,600 by 30 September 2011.

Critics say the move has left some departments with skeleton staffing, affecting services.

Staff 'struggling'

Devon County Council has been dealing with prospective shortfalls in government funding of 28% between 2010 and 2014.

The council said that, because it had started making cuts before the government announced any, it was in a stronger financial position than it might have been.

The cabinet member responsible for the freeze, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, said the £30m savings meant the authority could start hiring again.

Regional Unison union organiser Karen Williams said the freeze had left staff so worried about keeping their jobs they were not prepared to talk to bosses about any problems.

"They're very reluctant to admit that they're struggling to their managers.

"They are concerned that, if they admit they are struggling, they themselves may been seen as being less competent."

Unions 'on board'

Liberal Democrat leader Brian Greenslade said he believed that the freeze had affected frontline services.

He said: "We've been worried about contact time between youth workers and young people, and people being able to respond within the social side of children's work."

Mr Leadbetter said no understaffing issues had been raised with him by unions.

He said: "They have been fully on board and they haven't come to us with any of these problems."

The council said heads of services were going to have more flexibility to recruit, as long as they kept within budgets.

However, any completely new posts will have to be approved by the cabinet, and councillors are to scrutinise all vacancies before they are advertised to ensure they are absolutely necessary.

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