Harrogate council workers "feel battered" says union as fears remain over reviews

The union representing some of Harrogate Borough Council's lowest-paid workers says its members feel "battered" by the newly adopted 2019/20 budget.

Monday, 18th February 2019, 2:40 pm
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 2:47 pm
Unison chief says concerns still remained about service reviews currently underway at the council.

David Houlgate, the secretary of Unison’s local government branch in Harrogate, said staff had paid a "heavy price" as council budgets shrunk from a decade of reduced Government funding.

"We acknowledge that council budgets have reduced significantly over the last decade as Government grants have been withdrawn," he said.

"As a result, staff have paid a heavy price.

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"Their pay has been cut in real terms, adverse changes to their terms and conditions, increased workloads, the uncertainty of year on year reviews, increased sickness absence due to stress and, of course, redundancies.

"It would be fair to say our members feel battered".

How Harrogate became a film town Mr Houlgate added that concerns remained over a series of operational reviews currently being undertaken by the council.

The reviews have been repeatedly defended by the council, with cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Graham Swift tackling the topic again at a full meeting of council on February 13.

“It’s about improving the service (and) delivering more with less resources," he said of the purpose of the reviews. "If that requires automation, then so be it."

He also addressed concerns the reviews would directly lead to job losses.

Buyers 'lined up' for Crescent Gardens development“I’m very confident that our track record of job reduction is a very different scenario to job losses, where people lose their jobs by redundancy," Coun Swift said.

“This council has a track record of ensuring that people are redeployed where natural wastage and vacancy exist."

Traffic chaos in town centreIn ending his address, Coun Swift said the reviews were the latest action in a drive to maintain council's rates of efficiency.

"This council has a track record of efficiency, of cost reduction, improvement, in maintaining our council tax at a very low rate... we've kept it at a bare minimum around inflation levels and I believe we're in a strong position to do that in future years too."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporting Service