Reducing working hours at Northampton Borough Council will not solve 'morale crisis', says Labour

Northampton Borough Council announced their budget for 2018/19 on Friday (December 15).
Northampton Borough Council announced their budget for 2018/19 on Friday (December 15).
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Opposition councillors say Northampton Borough Council staff have been suffering from a "low-morale" crisis for years.

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The borough council announced in their budget plans on Friday (December 15) they would reduce their staff's working week by three hours.

But this is a reversal of a decision in 2014 to raise staff hours from 37 up to 40, and are now only scaling it back down again.

The council cites the "adverse impact" this move had on staff morale, recruitment and retention, and in recent years led to a need to cover vacancies with interim staff.

Labour leader councillor Danielle Stone says the increase in working hours should never have happened in the first place.

She said: "The borough council put their staff's hours up without increasing pay. It amounts to them asking staff to work four weeks extra every year for free. It was essentially a wage cut.

"We've had huge problems being able to deliver services with low staff morale.

"This is not enough to motivate them. It shouldn't have happened in the first place. It was a foolish policy that demotivates staff."

The budget for 2018/19 has outlined a plan to lower the hours back down to 37-a-week - a move that will in itself cost £150,000 a year until 2023.

Councillor Stone said: "I presume that £150,000 will be used to recruit staff.

"It's too little too late. There is a crisis at the borough council of staff morale."

A spokesman for Northampton Borough Council said the £150,000 will be spent "in order for us to continue providing the same level of customer service we currently do."

The council is anticipating having to make savings of around £11.2 million during the next five years.