Harrogate Borough Council have moved to ease concerns over job losses following an upcoming restructure of its street cleansing service, saying that training will be provided and alternative positions available for employees impacted by the changes.
The completed street cleansing review, which sparked concerns earlier this year that it could lead to job cuts for council staff, was presented to the human resources committee earlier this month.
While the public and press were excluded from the chamber due to commercial and privacy sensitivities, committee chair Tim Myatt said after the meeting that the new structure, which includes new machinery, would be implemented in the coming months.
It was also confirmed that the council will offer additional training and look for jobs both inside and outside the street cleaning service for those impacted in the restructure, but compulsory redundancies will be avoided.
"The committee approved a new structure for the street cleansing service and the council's management are looking to implement the changes in two phases," Coun Myatt said.
"A key aim of the review is to plan for the introduction of modern street cleansing equipment which will help council staff to keep our district clear of litter."
"It is hoped that staff within the service who wish to stay at the council will be able to do so, either with the street cleansing team or another service."
"The council is offering additional training to staff where necessary, such as funding driving lessons for staff who do not have a licence and who will be required to drive under the new structure."
Job losses had been a key concern prior to the completion of the review.
This was highlighted in February, when more than 1000 Knaresborough community members signed an online petition titled 'Support Knaresborough’s Street Cleaners' over concerns the review could lead to job cuts.
The review comes as Harrogate Borough Council aims to save at least £511,000 over the next two financial years from its parks and environmental services budgets.
The Harrogate branch of union UNISON said following the move that it welcomed the news the review wouldn't lead to compulsory redundancies.
"I can advise that we have been engaging with the Council on this review for a number of months as it moves to a new way of delivering this service," the union said in a statement.
"This review affects some of the council’s lowest paid employees and it was only last year that the Council withdrew its Living Wage supplement, which was very disappointing.
"Our aim all along has been to avoid compulsory redundancies and we believe we have achieved this.
"Staff are being re-trained to carry out new job role’s in street cleansing or are to be re-deployed in to vacant posts elsewhere at the Council.
"We know that some staff have requested voluntary redundancy and we support their requests and hope the council will agree to these.
"We do have concerns relating to staffing provision over weekends and bank holidays and we have made this known to the council."
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter