Just as with the Japanese Knotweed problem (see below), the briefing on a new redundancy scheme took place behind closed doors with opposition councillors, the press and public excluded. We were left to wonder where the figures that were being bandied about came from and how much the new schemes would save or cost the council.
Unions are quite rightly concerned that the early redundancies (mainly the bosses) were being done on the old, higher, payouts whilst future cuts (mainly lower paid employees) would be based on new (lower) figures.
Some councillors asked why there couldn't be a scheme to limit the maximum payouts at the top end - after all, the public accept the concept of fair payouts but not schemes which allow the top bosses to walk away with hundreds of thousands of pounds each. We were told that such schemes might break age discrimination laws.
Surely it is not beyond the wit of man (or lawyer) to devise a scheme which does what we asked but does not break the rules?
In response to the debate, the Leader of the Council said that any agreement today would not have to be for the long term but could be reviewed. He implied that such a review could take place very soon.
At the vote, the Leader's proposal only went through by 5 votes to 4 with at least one cabinet member very unhappy.
It was also apparent that the consultation with the unions has not been as comprehensive as we might have wished and that the Council's HR committee had not even been consulted. All together this looked like a quick fix solution railroaded through without proper thought.
Not surprisingly, it will be called in for further scrutiny.