Full Council was dominated last night by a spirited debate about the robbing from Darlington of the Building Schools for the Future money by the ConDems. It was, shall we say, interesting to watch Tory and LibDem councillors opposite performing logic gymnastics as they tried to reconcile their support for the BSF campaign with a slavish defence of their Government's slash and burn approach to public spending.
I would imagine the debate would have been more heated still had councillors been privy to the news released by Durham Constabulary today that it is issuing 90 day redundacy notices to all of its 1160 civilian staff, which include its community support officers. The BBC website says that it is expected that 200 will lose their jobs.
To quote from the press release in full;
"Durham Constabulary, along with all other public sector bodies, is considering its budget for 2010/11 in line with the government’s comprehensive spending review which will be announced in the autumn.
"We expect that some jobs will go; how many depends on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review which reports in October.
"In preparation for this, all 1,160 members of police staff employed by Durham Police Authority are being issued with notices advising that their posts are being considered for potential redundancy and that the statutory 90 day consultation period has started.
"This does not mean that all 1,160 police staff posts will go. "It means that when we are in a position to consider where cuts will be made, the formal process will already have been underway for some time."
Assistant Chief Officer, Gary Ridley, said: “Despite undertaking a range of actions to save money, such as freezing recruitment, offering early retirement, voluntary redundancy and centralising functions within its HQ site at Aykley Heads, it is clear that compulsory redundancies need to be considered in light of likely future reductions in the amount of government grant the constabulary receives.
“We are working closely with the Police Authority and Trade Unions to try and minimise the impact on our staff whilst maintaining a service to the people of County Durham and Darlington."
From my perspective as a ward councillor, the community officers perform a valuable role in tackling crime and responding to concerns, and we will all be watching the situation closely. No-one should be in any doubt either of the importance played by civilian staff - they free up officers to work on the front line, and from my own experience politically and professionally, I kmow how they help keep the public safe, albeit not in a way many will appreciate on a day-to-day basis.
Another bleak day. But believe me, this is just a taste of what is to come over the next few months.