Fears over frontline service

Grass cutting.
Grass cutting.

A county councillor has questioned how a proper service can be provided for north Northumberland following further reductions in staff.

The number of roles in Northumberland County Council’s north area neighbourhood services department has been reduced from 100 to 88 as part of a restructuring process.

And Coun Steven Bridgett has said that despite the effort and hard work of the staff, the service is at breaking point already.

A county council spokeswoman said: “The northern area neighbourhood services restructure has involved a reduction from 100 to 88 posts and this has been achieved by natural wastage.

“We don’t envisage any compulsory redundancies in the northern area neighbourhood services.”

But Coun Bridgett said: “I’m sure the council will justify this by saying there will be no compulsory redundancies, however, it still does not take us away from the fact that neighbourhood services staff will be reduced.

“They are the front end, the grassroots of the organisation. They are what the public expect to see.

“While I do not wish to see any job cuts, I understand the reality we are in and I know that difficult decisions must be made.

“However, if the public had a choice in the matter between cutting the staff to frontline services (the public face of the organisation) or cutting back-office staff in finance, legal, transformation, communications. etc, I know what they would choose.”

He went on to say that he is fully supportive of the staff in the neighbourhood services department, who have done ‘an excellent job in difficult circumstances’ in recent years.

Coun Bridgett added that the north area covers the towns of Alnwick, Berwick and Morpeth and an area of more than 2,600 sq km, which will not be possible with a reduction in staffing levels.

Neighbourhood services covers everything from repairing benches and bins, to grass cutting, to clearing out drains and culverts.