Re-arranging the deck chairs on the good ship Reading Borough Council

Reading Borough Council (RBC) will create five senior posts within corporate services and the environment and neighbourhood services departments. The proposal was agreed at the council’s personnel committee on 12 October.

Until 31 March 2020, the additional salary and other employment costs will largely be met from the change fund of £800,000 a year which was set aside in the financial strategy agreed by RBC at policy committee in July. In the longer term, income generation and savings will be required to fund the posts.

The five posts are the tip of the iceberg as a re-organisation and restructuring is also taking place within these two departments. The posts do not represent five additional staff as some of the responsibilities and duties of the new director and department heads are currently being carried out by existing positions within the organisation which are currently unfilled or filled by interim staff.

The posts will be advertised externally and all these changes are expected to be in place by 30 April 2018.

At the personnel committee meeting

Personnel committee is a small committee of only three members plus the chair; Liberal Democrats and the Green party are not currently represented on it and the meetings are not webcast.

Chief Executive Peter Sloman told the meeting that the new posts were needed to provide additional co-ordination and leadership in corporate services. In the department for environment and neighbourhood services (DENS) the focus would be on generating income from the trading activities carried out by the department.

Councillor Liz Terry, lead councillor for neighbourhoods, spoke in support of the proposal saying that “… investment was needed to make money.”

Although councillor Jo Lovelock said “… all [political] groups had been briefed on the corporate services proposals”, councillor Jeanette Skeats contradicted her and said the conservative group would not be briefed until after the committee.

In relation to the practicalities of recruitment, Peter Sloman said “It is a very tough labour market in local government. … People need to be excellent and stay with us a long time.”

After this agenda item the committee went into a closed session for the final item on ‘Early retirement and redundancies’.

Corporate Services changes

The corporate services department is responsible for legal, finance, personnel, internal audit, customer care and purchasing functions. It will be strengthened by a re-organisation and additional senior posts, including a director of resources at its head. The position of strategic director of finance, currently filled on an interim basis by Peter Lewis, will end when the director of resources begins work.

Restructuring within the area will establish two more new posts; a head of human resources (HR) and head of procurement and contracts. Changes in finance and the role of head of finance mean that the current head’s contract will be terminated on ‘grounds of redundancy’ and a new head recruited.

A Head of HR will combine the position of HR manager, which has been filled by a contractor since 2015, and change manager to oversee the re-arrangement of the deck chairs.

The report which went to the personnel committee on 12 October stated:

While it may appear unusual to be creating new, corporate support posts at a time of budget reductions, it is clear that the consequences of not having these posts is a lack of leadership capacity and skills to drive through the savings, efficiencies and improvements that are essential to the financial sustainability of the Council.

The estimated annual salaries proposed are £90,000 per annum for the heads of HR and head of procurement and contracts, £100,000 for the Head of Finance and £130,000 for the Director of Resources. The total additional cost of these changes in the current and following two financial years to 31 March 2020 will be:

2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
£136,834 £520,923 £422,000
Environment and Neighbourhood Services changes

Deep clean of Highgrove Street – councillor Terry is third from the left

There will also be changes within DENS. The vacant post of head of transportation and streetcare will be deleted and two new posts created; head of environment and commercial services and head of transportation and infrastructure.

The reason for these changes is to:

… drive the Council’ s commercialisation agenda, with a particular focus initially on the environmental direct services offer, in order to generate an operational surplus to help support the Council maintain the high standard of those universal services it provides across the town.

The cost of the DENS changes is a further £117,000 approximately per annum.

  1. Personnel Committee 12 October 2017 – papers
  2. Policy Committee 17 July 2017 – Bridging the Gap medium term financial strategy – paper & webcast

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  1. Pingback: The next episode of “up Holy Brook without a paddle”: the RBC Audit and Governance committee – a satire? | The Whitley Pump

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