Planned staff cuts 'won’t affect quality of services', insist Havering officials

Havering's chief operating officer Jane West presenting the draft budget to the overview and scrutiny board

Havering's chief operating officer Jane West presenting the draft budget to the overview and scrutiny board - Credit: Josh Mellor LDR

Havering’s senior executives have insisted planned cuts of 400 staff roles to plug a multi-million budget gap will not impact the quality of services. 

If proposals are approved, the borough is set to lose more than a 10th of its 3,300 staff jobs over the next two years in order to close the £13million budget gap it faces for 2022/23. 

As reported last week in the Recorder, the council plans to offer voluntary redundancies, “delete” roles that are currently vacant and reduce the use of agency staff to save about £7m. 

Presenting the draft budget to the overview and scrutiny board, chief operating officer Jane West said the figures were “sound” as long as the savings can be made. 

She added: “Our view is that with all the new efficiencies and IT systems that we’ve acquired… we shouldn’t see a reduction in services. I think you might even see an increase in services delivered.” 

Cllr Graham Williamson warned that letting lots of staff go could add to existing “morale problems” and affect performance. 

He added: “People will start leaving, staff will burn out, you’ll lose experienced people.” 

Ms West, who will soon leave Havering for cash-strapped Croydon Council, said staff numbers have been kept high over the last two years to help during the pandemic. 

Most Read

She said the council needs to cut a further £27m over the next four years and has growing demand for help with both children and adult social care. 

Risks to its finances include another Covid variant, increased costs from inflation and dwindling reserves – which are expected to drop to £8m by the end of the year. 

Chief executive Andrew Blake-Herbert said the combination of risks and 12 years of austerity means Havering is “almost in the perfect storm”. 

He said: “We still have some level of service and have to provide that, but expectations are going up and ultimately that can’t go on. In terms of what we are doing we are punching above our weight. 

“At the moment what we need is a huge injection of money, but the government hasn’t really got a source.” 

Board members agreed to recommend the council find a way to monitor the quality of its services if staff are cut. 

The proposed budget was approved by the cabinet and will now go to full council on March 2.