Union fears over possible job cuts and working conditions at Harrogate Borough Council

David Houlgate of Unison and Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper.
David Houlgate of Unison and Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper.

The union representing some of Harrogate Borough Council’s lowest-paid workers has voiced fears that a series of reviews will leave employees struggling with increased workloads, pay cuts and unsociable working hours.

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The secretary of Unison’s Harrogate local government branch, Dave Houlgate, said the union had been aware of potential redundancies in parks and environmental services for more than 18 months due to the operational reviews and had been in talks with the council’s consultants since September 2017.

Coun Graham Swift, the council’s cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development, last week confirmed that “jobs will go” in the wide-reaching reviews, which are aimed at saving at least £511,000 over the next two financial years.

But Mr Houlgate warned that, while compulsory redundancies had been avoided to date, there were concerns the reviews could lead to remaining staff being told to work unsociable hours at reduced levels of pay, with increased workloads.

“We believe this could impact on service provision due to recruitment and retention and possibly ill-health issues,” he said.

Mr Houlgate added that the union didn’t believe the proposed level of savings was possible.

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“We do not believe the proposals and savings identified by the consultants are achievable,” he said. “Going forward, our expectation is that voluntary redundancies or

retraining and re-deployment will be fully utilised to avoid any compulsory redundancies.

“We continue to engage with the council and remain hopeful that a satisfactory outcome for all sides can be reached.”

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Coun Richard Cooper, leader of the council, said it was too early to speculate on staff numbers or hours.

“As we’ve said previously, this review is ongoing and until it is concluded we do not know how many staff will be needed to maintain and improve street cleanliness, how much this will cost or what changes there may be to staff hours,” he said.

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“Individual staff may have some concerns and we will of course be working with them and the trade unions to ensure they can share their view with us as part of the consultation process.

“The most important thing though is that we are committed to tidy streets, as our activity in our retail centres has recently shown. If we can achieve this to an even higher standard using modern equipment and better organised rounds we would want to do so.”

Lachlan Leeming , Local Democracy Reporting Service