War of words over ‘offensive’ job cuts comments

JPCT-09-02-11-web Michael Brown
JPCT-09-02-11-web Michael Brown

COMMENTS made by the man holding West Sussex County Council’s purse strings have been labelled as ‘offensive’ by Lib Dem Group Leader Morwen Millson (Horsham Riverside) .

In an exclusive interview with the County Times last week, Michael Brown, Cabinet Member for finance and resource, played down the importance of 1,300 council job axes, saying: “Well, it’s not like they will go on the dole the next day”.

This week, the council’s Lib Dem Group Leader leapt to the defence of staff, describing the Tory strategy as ‘too much too soon’.

She said: “I think it’s really difficult because clearly there’s some sense in what they’re saying. They obviously have attempted to protect front line service.

“But the Lib Dems argued in February - when the cuts went through - that the target of saving should be drawn out over fours years instead of three, to ease the pain of cuts in the first year.

“The comments made are almost offensive to staff. Even if you believe what he says about 1,300 job cuts saving front line services, why wasn’t this done over the ten year period of budget reductions?

“If you cut jobs over a period of time, you will make savings over a period of time.

“I also think it’s offensive to say that staff get a chance to do something new, like retrain as a teacher. If they wanted to be a teacher they would have that earlier.

“No matter how you put it, redundancy is redundancy, and clearly taking 1,300 jobs out of the county council at a time when the over all economic climate is not exactly flourishing, it’s going to have a knock on affect for the rest of our economy.

“The staff losing their jobs will cut back on things like the cinema and meals out, so somewhere down the line we will pay for this.

“As well as this, we need to look into how such a large job cut will affect other vital services like care homes. The quality of care is something we can’t afford to let go.

“Another issue is the fact that the remaining staff will have to work harder than ever and there’s only a matter of time before they get fed up.”

With reference to the bus cuts, Morwen stressed the importance of school services remaining on the roads.

“I’m really worried about the Horsham school services. We all know what Horsham’s like during school time, you can’t get out of North Heath Lane at eight o’clock.

“If they think putting more people in cars and therefore creating more traffic on the road then we’re all mad!

“This is another example of a something that should have been cut back over time instead of leaving it until now and looking into all the ways it will affect people.

“They’ve done things the wrong way round.”

She added: “I have to concede that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, but it’s important to understand that none of us went into government to make cuts.”

Read Michael Brown’s letter on page ten of this week’s County Times for his latest comments on the WSCC’s 1,300 job axe.