Council staff left ‘deeply shocked’ after new Dorset unitary sends out redundancy letters

Redundancy warning letters have been sent to council staff in Dorset who have been left “infuriated and deeply shocked” ahead of the planned local government reorganisation in the county.

The new Dorset Council said that it had formally notified staff of the loss of 117 mainly managerial posts as it “reduces duplication and management costs” when the county’s six local authorities merge in April.

But Unison and Labour have claimed that the process of job losses wasn’t expected to start until after the new authority was created, and the local party has criticised the move saying that promises have been broken.

The local government reorganisation will see Dorset’s nine councils scrapped and two new unitary authorities created, saving the county an estimated £108m over the next six years and one councillor said it would be “good news” for savings if redundancies were sorted quicker.

A Unison member of staff said staff were “infuriated and deeply shocked” by the move.

A spokesperson for the new shadow council said: “At this stage, we have formally notified affected employees – the majority of whom are managers within the existing councils. Those affected will be supported to apply for new roles in Dorset Council. If unchanged, current proposals would result in a net reduction of 117 posts.

“The proposed new structure has been developed to reduce duplication, reduce management costs and help the new Dorset Council maintain vital frontline services.

“This consultation will seek to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies through vacancy management, alternative employment and voluntary redundancy.”

Eight of the nine councils approved the merger plans, but Christchurch opposed the plans and launched a legal battle against them which it lost in the High Court.

Finance brief holder at the new Dorset Council, Weymouth’s Tony Ferrari, told the cabinet meeting it was a “good news story” if job losses could be achieved earlier than planned as it would mean greater savings.

West Dorset Labour Party said the council was "disregarding all agreed protocols" on the restructuring and said the employers were using the term ‘convergence’ to justify the cut of a significant number of posts in advance of the structure of the new council being agreed.

Redundancies at the county’s local authorities have already been heavily scrutinised and the total cost is expected to reach £9m, with a £475,000 severance package accompanying the departure of Jane Portman, managing director of Bournemouth BC, earlier this month.

Image credit - Andrew MatthewsPA WirePA Images


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