Whenever any large organisation refers to having to make ‘efficiencies’, one has to wonder who they think they’re kidding.
There can’t be many people who don’t know that it is really a euphemism for cuts.
But whichever way you choose to phrase it, news that Hampshire County Council has to cut a further £100m from its spending by March 2017 is not good.
Hundreds of jobs will also go unfilled as staff move on or retire and the local authority tries to balance its books.
With frontline services increasingly under threat, this time around it looks as if social care for adults and children will bear the brunt.
The council has already dropped in size by more than 2,000 staff and lost £240m from its budget.
Considering that the council’s payroll – excluding teachers – currently stands at around 12,000 members of staff, we are looking at a significant percentage reduction in that workforce.
Retaining services in the face of such swingeing cuts would be a challenge to anyone, regardless of political affiliation.
Last year, the council’s leader, Cllr Roy Perry, was one of 152 council leaders from across the country to sign a letter to chancellor George Osborne warning of the ‘serious impact’ on services if reductions in government grants continued.
It appears to have been to no avail. So as we face the inevitable, extra care needs to be made that the most vulnerable members of our society are not allowed to slip through the gaps as a result.
All this talk of better ‘co-ordination’ and ‘realignment’ of services is all well and good, but care also needs to be taken when looking at the impact on those who actually use them.
And let’s not forget the staff that are left – when colleagues go they will inevitably be picking up the workload they leave.
Overstretched staff could well see their morale hit, make mistakes and may end up taking time off ill due to stress – which could ultimately prove the cuts to be false economies and counterproductive.
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