Job fears hinder modernisation

11 Oct 01
Local government modernisation is being seriously hampered by fears of major job cuts, according to a former high-profile council chief.

12 October 2001

Heather Rabbatts, head of e-government consultancy Impower, called for an 'honest conversation' with staff over cuts tied to the rolling out of new technology.

The former chief executive of the London Borough of Lambeth told the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) annual conference in Brighton on October 8: 'Joining up local government sounds a simple reform but in practice is very difficult.

'People are territorial and they feel threatened as staff will be affected in terms of redundancy. People are sceptical and scared in local authorities.

'It is a major communication challenge to communicate [e-government] in a positive and constructive way.'

Rabbatts told Public Finance: 'It's much better to talk about this than not. People often mistake silence for conspiracy. Management structure change is the piece in the equation that hasn't been grappled with yet.'

She added that there were too many central government departments involved in the e-government endeavour: 'You have got to have a single contact point that can really be the driving force.'

David Bartlett, chief executive of the London Borough of Bromley said: 'It is not just staff carrying out invoicing and processing that will be affected by e-government.'

He added that the drive to meet the 2005 deadline for implementing electronic delivery would result in redundancies through automation and the simplification of systems: 'I think the greatest impact will be at the second and third management tiers. People who think they are doing unique things will find similar things are happening elsewhere. I think a 10% reduction is achievable.'

Chris Haynes, a member of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions' local government modernisation team, conceded that e-government will lead to a large-scale redeployment of personnel.

But he denied that it would cause significant staff cuts.

Haynes said: 'There is no doubt the transformation in local government will be profound. I think there will be an effect on local government staffing in certain areas but as more people will be dedicated to customer services I don't think the overall head count will be affected.'


Did you enjoy this article?