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Local Authority Employment

Volume 524: debated on Monday 28 February 2011

3. What recent estimate he has made of the likely change in aggregate levels of employment among local authorities in the next four years. (42487)

No estimate has been made of the change in aggregate employment levels among local authorities in the next four years. It is for individual councils to make their own decisions about how their local work forces are organised and managed to ensure the efficient delivery of services for local taxpayers.

I think there should have been such an estimate. The Office for Budget Responsibility has projected a net loss of 40,000 in public sector employment in the next financial year, yet the Conservative-led Local Government Association says that 100,000 jobs will be lost in local government alone in the coming financial year. How have the Government got this calculation so badly wrong?

It is precisely because it is down to local authorities to configure their work forces to meet local needs and priorities that the Government have not sought to make a calculation and therefore cannot get any such calculation wrong. The right hon. Gentleman might also like to reflect on the fact that some of the figures being bandied about relate not to actual reductions in jobs but to consultations on potential changes that might not come to pass.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating Hammersmith and Fulham council, which, in four years of Conservative control, has reduced its staff by a third, from 4,087 to 2,787, with almost no redundancies? It has cut the communications staff by half and reduced the human resources headcount from 100 to 47, all at a time when its services are rated among the highest in the country.

Hammersmith and Fulham is an exemplar of how councils with imagination and political courage can deal with the matter. My hon. Friend is right to point out that it has done so—without any significant redundancy—by deleting needless posts.

Following a detailed survey of 202 councils, the Local Government Association has confirmed that, because of the scale and speed of the cuts imposed on local government, it stands by its prediction that 140,000 jobs will be lost. This was dismissed by the Secretary of State as a calculation on the back of a fag packet. The calculation includes Tory Hampshire, with 1,200 job losses; Tory Norfolk, with 1,500; and Birmingham, with 2,700 losses in next year alone. Sadly, the LGA got it right and the Secretary of State got it wrong. Will he now apologise?

There is nothing to apologise for, because the error lies with those—including the GMB—who have calculated these scaremongering figures on the basis of HR1 forms, which relate to consultations on possible deletions of vacant posts, changes in work force patterns and voluntary redundancies. They bear no relation at all to compulsory job reductions; the hon. Gentleman should know better.