Residents have voiced their concerns after a cost-cutting re-shuffle of Southwark Council’s senior management positions took place earlier this month without public consultation.
The changes included the deletion of the Head of Major Works title, which dealt with all major refurbishment projects taking place in the borough’s estates. The job will now be subsumed into another council officer’s role.
New positions have been introduced as the council attempts to streamline its services due to hefty government cuts to local spending – it estimates these measures will save £1m a year.
Cris Claridge, chair of the Southwark Group of Tenants’ Organisation, told the News that residents felt like they were “not even an afterthought” to the council.
She said: “We are the recipients of the service and we should have been informed. It’s like we’re not even an afterthought. We asked them to defer the decision until we’d been consulted but it didn’t happen. Our main concern is the total lack of consultation. There was none at all. We actually only found out that this was taking place after hearing about it through the grapevine.”
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Lib Dems, was concerned that “very generous” redundancy packages would negate any savings made due to the changes.
She said: “We know savings need to be made but when the council can’t even get basic repairs done, how are they going to cope with less people doing more work?
“I know that some of the senior officers are getting very generous redundancy packages, which makes me wonder how much will really be saved?”
A spokesperson for the council confirmed that the re-shuffle would result in savings of £1m per year, but conceded that this did not factor in redundancy payments. She also added that public consultation was not common practice in these situations unless the services themselves were to change.
Leader of the Council Peter John said: “The council has to make significant savings because of continued government cuts, but we have been very clear that our priority is protecting the delivery of front-line services. We know that these services are of crucial importance to Southwark residents, which is why despite the very difficult financial challenges the council faces we will seek to minimise any reductions to front-line staff.
“The new structure will allow the council to carry on delivering excellent services to residents and to modernise our services, which will help make the additional savings that will be needed in future.”