LBWF is making 150 employees redundant, and imposing 105 separate spending cuts, but its long-term habit of appointing expensive senior staff apparently continues

Some of the choices that LBWF makes about the expenditure of public money are perplexing, to say the least.

Consider first some recent history.

Over the years, and when speaking publicly, leading Labour councillors have repeatedly insisted that dwindling central government funding is threatening the council’s financial stability.

Yet behind the scenes, as this blog has revealed, these same leading Labour councillors have rubber stamped an extraordinary, certainly unprecedented, expansion in the number of senior Town Hall staff, with the latter increasing from 101 to 370 between 2015 and 2022 (the last year when figures are available) at a cost of at least £19m..

Now, with inflation and higher interest rates adding new pressures, the consequences of this profligacy are becoming apparent, and faced with a projected budgetary deficit in the year just ending of c. £16m., and worse in the future, LBWF is planning to make 150 staff redundant, introduce 105 separate ‘management actions to reduce spend’, and consider selling off some of its extensive property portfolio. 

So far so bad, but at least, residents will reasonably assume, lessons must have been learnt.

But have they?

In a paper headed ‘Senior Management Restructure’ that the new CEO, Linzi Roberts-Egan, is presenting to Cabinet this week, she asks the council ‘to bring in additional capacity at a senior officer level’ in the People Directorate. 

Specifically, her recommendation is to permanently delete the ‘Strategic Director People’ post, and replace it with ‘a separate Strategic Director of Children’s Services and a Strategic Director of Adult Social Care’.

Ms. Roberts-Egan claims that these changes are necessary in order ‘to lead and manage the number of high profile opportunities and challenges that face the services now and in the future’, but provides no further supporting detail. 

However, she does admit that the changes will not come cheap, because while the deletion will save c.£210,000 p.a., the two new appointments will cost c.£420,000 p.a., meaning a net increase to the overall wage bill of c.£210,000 p.a., to be covered from contingency in year one, incorporated into the annual budget thereafter.

To advocate such a large outlay at this particular time is not exactly politic given that so many Town Hall staff simultaneously are being encouraged to take redundancy.  

But more importantly, it is reasonable to wonder why, if this rearrangement is now judged to be so imperative, in previous years it wasn’t. 

This is especially pertinent because in 2020-21 (when Cllr. Grace Williams was the relevant Cabinet portfolio holder) LBWF found itself entangled in three worrying child safeguarding cases, one involving what the presiding judge believed was very likely ‘“an overwhelming failure by the local authority”’ (see links below), and if ever there was a moment when the introduction of ‘additional capacity at a senior officer level’ seemed merited, it was surely then. 

It is worth asking, too, whether, when putting together her proposals, Ms. Roberts-Egan evaluated them against other possible options.

For example, it is known that LBWF children’s services in recent years have struggled with supervision and caseloads, and if £200,000 really was going spare, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to allocate it to the front line, and thus both solve these problems and stop them recurring in the future?

To conclude, that it is still necessary to pose these questions is very disappointing.

In the recent past, LBWF’s senior staff cohort mushroomed seemingly out of control in large part because there was so little proper scrutiny of what was going on.

Ms. Roberts-Egan’s proposals seem to be just more of the same.

It is an inauspicious way for a new CEO to start.

Related Posts

Private Eye reports LBWF’s mushrooming number of expensive senior staff, their failure to improve performance, and the redundancy programme that is the consequence

EXCLUSIVE From 2015 to 2022 the number of senior staff in the Town Hall grew nearly fourfold, the cost of employing them did too, but service levels remained average

Has LBWF got a child safeguarding problem? Judge in recent case condemns council’s ‘overwhelming failure’, while three other cases give cause for concern

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