Almost exactly one third of the councilâ€™s total revenue spending was spent on people last year, some Â£346 million on wages and related staff costs out of a total of Â£1,031 million on the revenue side. Most of these people do a great job for Ealing and too often they get unfairly criticised by politicians, journalists and the general public.
One of the most important ways that the council will be able to live with reduced means over the next four years whilst not impacting frontline services will be to manage this spending very carefully.
I asked the following question at the last council meeting.
Can the portfolio holder answer the following questions in relation to the terms and conditions of directly employed staff?
- Number of hours to be worked per week?
- Holiday entitlement (including any changes with length of service)?
- Any additional holiday days beyond the standard public holidays (8 including Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Yearâ€™s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and May Day, Whitsun and August bank holiday)?
- The total value of any overtime, anti-social hours, special responsibility allowances, attendance allowances or similar payments made by the Council in the last financial year.
Number of hours to be worked per week?
35 hours per week
Chief Officers: Undertake such reasonable hours of work as necessary to fully perform duties
Holiday entitlement (including any changes with length of service)?
Less than 5 years service: 24 days
Between 5 and 10 years service: 27 days
More than 10 years service: 30 days
Chief Officers: 30 days
Any additional holiday days beyond the standard public holidays (8 including Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Yearâ€™s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and May Day, Whitsun and August bank holiday)?
Extra Statutory Holiday: 1 day (National Term)
Extra Leave: 2 days
All additional holiday days usually taken between Christmas and New Year. For each of these days worked, a day is added to that yearâ€™s leave entitlement.
The total value of any overtime, anti-social hours, special responsibility allowances, attendance allowances or similar payments made by the Council in the last financial year.
Figures are for financial year: April 2009 â€“ March 2010 and exclude schools
Anti-social hours: Â£721,234
Special responsibility: Â£201,080
Attendance allowances: None recorded as being paid to employees in 2009/10
Most working people would think a 35 hour working week extremely cushy. I am sure that many of our councilâ€™s workers do more than their prescribed hours and are very conscientious. But the same would be true for most who do a basic 37.5 hour week. If your working week is only 35 hours it is 6.7% shorter then that most full-time people put in and that means that the council has to employ 6.7% more people. It also means that the council could save 6.7% of its Â£346 million staff bill. This is the equivalent of Â£23 million. The savings that the council is looking for are Â£53 million. This one area could deliver almost half of that of that in one go. No loss of services. Excellent conditions and pay for council staff.
The councilâ€™s holiday offer looks too generous I am afraid. The 24 days basic rate with 3 extra days over the Christmas holidays looks too generous by 4 days. 4 days lost out of a typical working year of 222 days (after holiday, public holidays and national average sick days) is a 1.8% loss. Taken across the whole councilâ€™s staff bill of Â£346 million that is another Â£6.2 million.
Finally, much of the Â£1.8 million of special payments made by the council last year would not be countenanced in the private sector and certainly most organisations enduring financial hardship would simply ban overtime straight away. Typically most roles can be filled by people who want to work the hours that are offered. Very rarely do you need to use special payments.
Such changes to terms and conditions could not happen overnight and it would take some persuasion I am sure, but what a huge prize? The total value of these three savings would be Â£30 million and would do most of the work required for the council to continue to provide good services whilst dealing with a very difficult financial settlement.