Council workers in Tower Hamlets have been told to brace themselves for redundancies as staff budgets are slashed by £29 million.
Tower Hamlets Chief Executive Kevan Collins wrote to union leaders on Wednesday, warning that 500 jobs are under threat as the council responds to the “unpredecented financial challenge”.
Tower Hamlets council has vowed “to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible” and is seeking to make the savings through voluntary redundancies, not filling vacant posts and the introduction of early retirement options. Mr. Collins also said in his letter that he hopes to make savings by reducing spending on “agency staff”.
Both Mr. Collins and the Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman have said “vital frontline services” will be shielded from the cuts.
Mr. Collins, who earns a six figure salary, featured in Channel 4 documentary Undercover Boss earlier this year. The 50-year-old posed as “Colin” as he accompanied council workers, including members of the antisocial enforcement team and a meals on wheels delivery person, on their rounds in a bid to discover how best to improve the “efficiency and productivity” of council services.
Director of Children’s Services for Tower Hamlets Isobel Cattermole said at the time: “Kevan is fair, he’s got vision and he can be quite ruthless.”
Last month Mayor Rahman saw his own mayoral salary being reduced by £10,000 to £65,000 after a successful petition by Labour councillors.
But some Tower Hamlets councilors have expressed concern that the announcement is coming at a time when the mayor is advertising for a head of office.
Peter Golds, who is the council’s Conservative leader, said: “I find it absolutely ridiculous that at a time staff are hearing this, job adverts are going out for the head of the mayor’s office at between £57,000 and £59,000.”
Others worry that the slashing of 500 out of 6000 council jobs, excluding school posts, is too drastic a measure and could have far-reaching consequences.
Poplar and Limehouse Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick said: “The coalition are cutting too deeply too quickly and we could end up with the situation Ireland is in.”