A ‘SIGNIFICANT reduction in current staff budgets’ is set to take place in the county council’s highways department.
West Sussex County Council has revealed a £1.3m cut to its staff budget in the department for the 2015/16 financial year.
According to the council, in 2013 additional temporary funding was made available to the highways service to help address a ‘backlog of customer enquiries’ that built up as a result of the winter of 2012/13.
“The temporary arrangement has been successful and enquiry volumes have now returned to predicted volumes and normal levels,” said a report ahead of next Wednesday’s environmental and community services select committee meeting.
As well as the additional posts, the council also created a customer services hub in Bognor Regis, which opened in October.
As part of the highways’ restructure, next year’s budget will not include funding of £814,000 for the temporary staff posts, plus there is the cost of the customer services hub to offset, which totals the £1.3m cut to the staff budget. The highways service has therefore been forced to rethink its whole provision of service from a zero-based budget perspective and we are designing a staff structure that will allow us to function within these constraints,” said the environmental committee report.
It said its new structure would focus on ‘localism’, with staff based in the area they worked, without having to visit a central office each day, instead utilising other council buildings, such as fire stations.
The council said a staff consultation about the changes was launched on December 17 and would close next Thursday, January 15.
“We propose to implement the restructure on April 1, 2015, subject to any amendments which result from the staff consultation,” reported the council.
In addition, proposals that the council labelled ‘radical and far-reaching’ are also in the pipeline, with plans for a ‘super hub depot’.
“This major development will be the single biggest change in our transformational plan, but will allow us to realise huge benefits to staff, contractors, sub-contractors, other service areas and partners and, ultimately, our customers,” said the council.
Although the location of the depot is not revealed, it is set to be ‘at a location with convenient main road access links to all parts of the county’.
As the council is intending for highway workers to be based in the areas in which they work, the super hub would be for office-based staff and storage of materials.
The council intends to sell its current depot sites in Midhurst and Broadbridge Heath, with cash from those going towards the new super hub.
It is also hoped to agree joint winter operations with Hampshire County Council.
Following the construction of the new super hub, the remaining depots, including the one at Drayton, look set to be sold or rented out.
The Drayton depot, which is around ten acres, has ‘significant value’, according to the council.