It's action we need

LOCAL authorities, just like their big brothers in Whitehall, have a poor record on prudence when it comes to employing staff. There was a time when if you wanted a job for life you either worked for the local council or a bank. We all know what s happene

LOCAL authorities, just like their big brothers in Whitehall, have a poor record on prudence when it comes to employing staff.

There was a time when if you wanted a job for life you either worked for the local council or a bank.

We all know what's happened to banks in the past couple of months and a tightening of the financial screws is now being felt in the public sector too.

By the end of March Newham Council expect to have made 141 members of staff redundant, 79 compulsorily and 62 who are happy to accept a final pay-off.


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The word from the Town Hall is that as well as wanting to peg Council Tax at last year's level these changes are being made for efficiency reasons.

At the same time 80 new jobs are being created and some of the staff earmarked for redundancy may yet be redeployed.

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The council go on to say they expect to generate savings of �53 million by 2011. "This does not mean cuts," they promise.

The 80 new positions are all targeted at the crime and antisocial behaviour service as well as public realm, which deals among other things with the monster problem of cleaning up the streets.

As rubbish dumping and street crime are top of most residents' concerns this has to be regarded as welcome news.

We can even set aside comments on why, without cutting services, it has proved possible to chop 141 of the present jobs.

If the new chief executive, Joe Duckworth, is leading a cull of surplus, expensive staff he is entitled to expect public support.

There are two important questions to emerge from these decisions.

The first is to what extent unnecessary tiers of management are being dismantled.

Local authorities are notoriously weak at keeping down the number of administrative staff.

It is far more important to channel as many human resources as possible into frontline services where the public really can see a difference.

The council answer that by saying: "We will be making changes where they are most needed."

That still leaves a question on whether these changes will bring about real improvements that we can all see.

It depends on how well the new staff are used...and managed.

The only answer to problems on our streets is to tackle them in a more efficient and determined way.

That means having teams dedicated to specific areas where their work can be monitored properly.

The words are promising, but it's how they are put into action that really matters.

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