Scottish labour has claimed one of the SNP”s key manifesto pledges was in tatters after papers revealed a “flagship” nationalist council has made almost 200 compulsory redundancies.
A report shows that Fife Council made a total of 380 redundancies over the last year and, as reported in The Courier, a further 500 are likely.
Crucially, Scottish Labour are highlighting the fact that 191 of the posts shed last year involved compulsory redundancies amounting to 39.1 “full-time equivalent” posts.
However Councillor Peter Grant, leader of the SNP administration in Fife, laid the blame for the job losses squarely at Labour’s door.
Mr Grant said, “Thanks to Labour’s incompetence, we’re having to take decisions none of us wants to take.”
Earlier a Labour spokesman said, “This is a major blow to one of the SNP’s key election pledges of ‘no compulsory redundancies’ in the public sector.
“A flagship SNP council has been forced to admit that compulsory redundancies have not only been made in the last year alone, but that the option remains firmly on the table.”
The SNP manifesto states that the party is “committed to a policy of no compulsory redundancies” and is “working to extend it across the public sector”.
The week before, Fife Council announced new plans to shed around 500 staff in a bid to save £16 million. Meanwhile, council human resources manager Sharon McKenzie has admitted, “redundancies can’t always be confined to the volunteer pool”.
“During 2010/11, we made the equivalent of 39 full-time posts redundant,” she said. “As most of the posts involved were filled by people working very short hours, typically about five hours per week, the total number of people affected was 191. Many of these individuals have other jobs at the council.”‘Under-funding’Scottish Labour’s Mid Fife and Glenrothes candidate Claire Baker seized on the figures, accusing the Nationalists of “chronically under-funding” councils throughout Scotland.
“This latest revelation comes as a humiliating blow to one of the SNP’s key election pledges,” she said. “It speaks volumes that one of the SNP’s flagship councils has already made 191 compulsory redundancies and is now admitting that more are on the table.
“This is simply further evidence that the SNP have chronically under-funded our councils, which means hardworking people are paying with their jobs and increased charges for services.”
Mr Grant responded, “There are obviously no limits to Labour’s willingness to distort the truth. They are so shameless they refuse even to accept responsibility for the financial mess they created and which is now forcing all councils, including those run by Labour, to make significant budget savings.
“In a perfect world nobody would ever lose their job. We don’t live in a perfect world, we live in a world where London Labour were in charge of the economy for 13 years and we’ll all be paying the costs of their failure for at least the next 13.
“It speaks volumes for Labour’s total contempt for council workers that their leader didn’t even turn up for the meeting when this report was considered.
“The Labour councillors who did bother to turn up did not vote against the report, which may explain why their press statement hides behind an anonymous ‘spokesperson’ rather than quoting anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
“The policy of this administration is that we will always look for alternatives to compulsory redundancies, but we have been completely honest with our employees and told them there will be occasions when compulsory redundancies can’t be avoided.
“When Labour were in power they didn’t have a ‘no compulsory redundancy’ policy and they have never asked us to have one either.”
“The report showed that despite having to find additional savings of around £30 million every year, we have been able to restrict the number of compulsory redundancies to fewer than 40 full-time equivalent posts out of a workforce of over 20,000.
“Councillors who turned up at Thursday’s meeting heard that most of the jobs that have been ‘lost’ had very short working hours, often only five hours per week, and about 70% of them already had other jobs with the council.
“This demonstrates that the alternative measures we have been taking are helping to avoid, as far as possible, a situation where someone in full-time employment loses their only source of income.
“All the evidence shows that if Labour were still in charge things would be an awful lot worse for council employees and for the people who depend on our services.”
The SNP manifesto states the party is committed to a policy of no compulsory redundancies and “agreement has been reached” to deliver on the pledge.
“We are working to extend it across the public sector,” the manifesto continues.
“This will provide certainty for thousands of households across Scotland who are already dealing with pressures on family budgets caused by rising prices and higher UK taxes such as VAT.”
Official papers from Fife Council state that, from April 1 last year to March 31 this year, a total of 191 council positions were axed through compulsory redundancies.
These included 151 in the education department, eight in housing and communities and 32 in social work.