Friday, 27 July 2012

Office moves - who's telling the truth - UPDATED

A week ago, Cornwall Council's cabinet agreed the latest in a line of decisions to rationalise the number of office buildings used by the authority (and yes, that does mean cut). This is a largely sensible programme to save money. If the council can move staff into a smaller number of buildings and sell or give up the lease on others, we can be more efficient and save money.

The two caveats to this welcome are:
  • that we should not use this as an excuse to 'gold-plate' the remaining offices
  • that we want to keep a presence in towns across Cornwall
The latter is the subject of some debate now. At the Cabinet meeting I asked about keeping our presence in all the towns we are currently in. So whilst it might be okay to move staff in Bodmin from one building to another to save money, we would be opposed to moving staff from one town to another. I got the assurance that the Council had no plans to move staff between towns or to move out of towns altogether.

And so the story on the front page of today's Cornish Guardian is puzzling to say the least. It is based on an email from the head of one of the council's services to his staff. He makes it quite clear that staff will be moved from Liskeard to Wadebridge and then to Bodmin when new offices are built there in a couple of years time. And when they move they will be entitled to claim 45p per mile for travelling because of the change of base.

But this email is clearly at odds with the assurances councillors were given when the decision to build the new Bodmin offices was taken. We were told categorically that staff based in Liskeard would stay in Liskeard and staff based in Wadebridge would stay in Wadebridge.

In response, the council has said that
'at times a limited number of staff were moved between offices for efficiency reasons'
which once again contradicts the assurances we were given last week.

I should point out that the proposed moves only affect one service - but it is a service with staff across Cornwall. How many other heads of service have written similar emails to their staff which have yet to come to light?

UPDATE - The move as planned currently only involves two members of staff. As such, it still contradicts the assurances that councillors were given but cannot be said to be leading towards the closure of either Luxstowe House or Higher Trenant.

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