Shetland Islands Council has axed 87 jobs since January simply by not filling vacant posts which are considered unnecessary.
Council human resources manager Denise Bell told this morning’s executive committee meeting that as part of the drive to cut costs managers now look carefully at whether a post needs filled when it becomes vacant.
The reduction in the workforce, which had the equivalent of 3,100 full-time employees, has been achieved in association with most of the unions which represent council staff. Both sides come together fortnightly through a new group, the Efficiency Partnership Group.
Councillors heard that the 87 posts that have been done away with came from various departments across the local authority. They called for more details and a figure for how much has been saved. If the average UK public sector salary of £28,808 is applied it would amount to somewhere in the region of £2.5 million a year.
Last year over £100 million of the council’s £133 million spend went on wages and it is looking to eventually reduce the bill by £14 million a year.
One of the many areas being examined is the mileage and essential car-users’ allowance paid to employees which it hopes to cut by £398,000 a year.
If the unions co-operate with a review of workers’ pay and conditions it is likely they will be rewarded with a deal which will mean compulsory redundancies will be avoided.
The partnership group is to look for efficiency savings among the workforce and will be involved in a review of council services to scrutinise the level of service provided and look at how efficiency can be improved.
The group also assesses ideas put forward by staff and members of the public under the new Ways to Save scheme, which has already elicited over 100 responses. However, management will decide which ideas are implemented.
Mrs Bell told councillors that the partnership group meetings had been very positive and productive so far. Councillor Allan Wishart said it was “really first class” to have the group in place.
But councillor Alastair Cooper complained that the good news about staff helping find savings was not getting out into the public domain. He only partly blamed the media, admitting that the council itself was poor at telling “the good stories”, even to its own workforce. He urged better communication and said employees would be encouraged to come forward with more ideas if they saw that their cost-cutting proposals were taken onboard.
The first signs are now emerging that councillors believe the battered local authority can pull itself up from its knees. Congratulating staff on their efforts to help make savings, Caroline Miller said: “I think this council is really finally starting to work together as a team.”