No loss of jobs - pledge

PUBLISHED: 14:00 26 November 2010

Archant

NORTH Somerset Council staff will not be deserting Weston town centre despite the relocation of hundreds of staff to Clevedon, leaders have promised.

The unitary authority was this week challenged over a pledge it made that there would be ‘no net loss of jobs’ to Weston following the purchase of a £13million Clevedon office.

Liberal Democrat campaigner Mike Bell questioned how jobs moved from the Town Hall, Somerset House and Weston Court would be replaced after learning 558 staff would be positioned at Castlewood.

But a North Somerset Council spokesman reiterated to the Mercury yesterday (Wed) that the number of employees in Weston town centre would be retained.

He said: “As stated previously the council’s office amalgamation programme will bring together council teams who are currently fragmented into two main hubs, the Town Hall in Weston and the Castlewood building.

“It is worth remembering that a guiding principle of the programme is that there should not be any net loss of council jobs from Weston town centre as a consequence of office moves.

“Although some council staff may work in different locations in future, overall the number of council staff in Weston town centre will remain the same, currently approximately 900 staff, and the council will retain the Town Hall as its main office building and civic base.”

Work to move staff from council offices across the district has already began, with bosses predicting all employees to be relocated by the New Year. They are likely to be joined by workers from partners such as the NHS, and outsourced council services run by Agilisys, although no formal agreement has been made with any party.

North Somerset Council spent £13million purchasing the offices, formerly used by HBOS, in March.

A further £1million has so far been spent fitting out the offices and doing repairs to the building.

In January, opposition councillors and Weston’s business community united against the proposals when the council voted the move through.

Mr Bell, who was among the protestors, said this week: “We know that most of these staff will therefore come from Weston – so where are the 500 new jobs for Weston to ensure no ‘net loss of jobs’ as was promised by council leaders?

“It just goes to show that when they railroaded this decision through council in a matter of a few weeks over Christmas and New Year, they had not thought through the consequences properly and had no plan to protect jobs and economic strength in Weston.”

Mr Bell also questioned why deals to bring in partners to the office had not yet been agreed. He added: “For an organisation that is supposed to be operating on a leaner basis, just what is all this expensive office space actually needed for?”

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