Council workers laid off in Sussex cost millions

MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ money was spent on community layoffs last year.

Sussex’s three largest councils have laid off 156 staff over the 2021-2022 period at a cost of £2,603,981 in exit packages.

East Sussex County Council shed 52 staff for £996,639 while West Sussex County Council shed 64 staff at a cost of £958,662.

Brighton and Hove City Council spent £648,680 of taxpayers’ money on exit deals for 40 people – less than in 2019-2020, when it spent £1,592,571 on redundancies.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said council staff have been laid off due to budget cuts and an increase in services.

Andrew Western, chair of the LGA’s resource committee, said councils had made layoffs to avoid further pressure on taxpayers.

“Without government funding to deal with the pressures of an accelerating national living wage on top of rising energy and other costs, further layoffs are likely, exacerbating what is already acute in some areas capacity crunch and disrupting the delivery of services to the public affected,” he said.

Around 9,744 council employees were made redundant in England in 2021-2022 – up from 9,454 in 2020-2021.

However, the financial situation across England is improving as exit package spending climbs from £250m for the fifth year running.

Data from the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities also shows that the average layoff package across England fell from £27,000 to £22,000 over the year to March.

Ian Miller, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, said this shows the government’s briefly introduced cap on exit payments in 2020 is not necessary.

The cap, which meant public sector redundancies could not exceed £95,000, was introduced in November 2020 before being scrapped three months later.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said the £648,680 figure also includes “the cost of notice periods for some staff”.

“The funding we get from the Government has fallen by more than £100m over the last decade,” he said.

“In this context, we have agreed policies to manage staff leaving the company, including redundancies resulting from changes or reductions in services.

“An employee who has worked for us for decades receives significantly more than one with just a few years of service.

“Our policies are consistent with national guidelines, including reference to statutory severance payments.

“The financial impact will be transparently reported to the government and made public.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for East Sussex County Council also said government cuts had hit the budget.

“We had to make some tough decisions to protect vital services,” she said. “This has included a number of redundancies over the past decade, as well as voluntary severance payments to help minimize the need for redundancies in the future.

“While our priority is always to provide residents with the best possible service and support, it is necessary to also treat our staff fairly in such circumstances.”

West Sussex County Council said it was trying to keep the cost of exit packages “as low as possible to give its residents value for money”.

“When we are fired, a carefully considered process follows to ensure our economic, legal and contractual obligations are met,” a spokeswoman said.

“A large and complex organization like the District Council must adapt to changing finances and services, and unfortunately sometimes that means staffing changes are required.” Council workers laid off in Sussex cost millions

Fry Electronics Team

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