This week Harlow Council took the step of sending out a special Weekly Information Sheet to all staff to tell them about an idea we wanted their, and their union’s view upon.

I have blogged a number of times now about the financial issues that face Harlow Council, both because of historic council’s actions in Harlow and because of the national financial crisis, leading to the cutting of grants to councils. So it should come as no surprise that in Harlow we are looking at every idea to save tax payers money.

So from April 2011 we are looking at a reduction in the working week of half an hour, or pro rata for part-time staff, which would apply to all Council employees and which would result in a pay reduction of approximately 1.3%  This would save the Council in the region of £180,000 per annum. Now that may not sound a lot but it would help the council not to have to make £180,000 of redundancies, and at this time I would rather make as few redundancies as possible. I acknowlede there are likely to be some, but as few as possible is better in terms of the job security of the council staff.

The Council will be consulting with trade union representatives on these proposals but we thought it was a good idea to be upfront with the staff about what was being considered first hand, rather than let them hear it second hand from other sources.

As I said on the Radio yesterday when discussing these savings, I want to hear staff and unions views on this and maybe they will be able to come up with other savings that we may not have thought of.

As a council, I suppose, we could have just looked at a pay cut, and if the governments cuts to local government are seriously front loaded I won’t at this stage rule anything out, but I think this is a fair way to help safeguard jobs and services whilst spreading the load equally. Most councils already work a 37 and not a 37.5 hour week like Harlow and so I don’t think a 6 minute a day loss of time is dramatically going to effect the council detrimentally, yet it may well allow us to keep some jobs and services which we otherwise might lose.

One final thing; If I am forced to seek to cut salaries of staff, you can be damn sure I will recommend a similar cut to councillors allowances too.

What do you think?

Tomorrow sees the launch of a ten week public consultation exercise in Harlow, about the future development of the Town.

The Council is asking residents, local groups and businesses where they think  new homes, shops, schools, community and leisure facilities, green spaces, employment areas and transport improvements in Harlow should be located in the future.

The LDF (Local Development Framework) which will replace the current Local Plan is a series of documents that will guide the planning process in Harlow up to 2026! So it is really important to get it right. Because of that the Council will be holding a series of public consultation meetings, details of which can be found here.

Whatever you think about Harlow and its future, if you are a resident you have the chance to have a voice in the process – please use it!

For those who want to know a little more you can check out the video below.