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Exclusive by Suzanne Simmons-Lewis ...
Exclusive by Suzanne Simmons-Lewis

The restructuring of the Local Government Association has been condemned by staff for damaging morale and causing the loss of valuable expertise.

At least 17 senior and middle officer posts have been culled in the reorganisation, leading to fears that the loss of specialist knowledge will mean the LGA is less effective.

Several officers have spoken in confidence about the implications of the restructuring, and their distaste at the way it was handled.

They claim it has been used to get rid of staff who would not tow the line. 'Anyone who didn't agree with [association chief

executive] Brian Briscoe was on the highway to nothing,' said one officer.

The LGA completed the re-organisation of its staff and departments last month.

A streamlined management structure of six departments headed by six new directors is the result, replacing the previous 10-department framework (LGC, 21 December 2001).

The third tier of senior officers was worst hit and a number of specialist posts were scrapped.

Officers had a choice of taking redundancy or applying for one of the new posts. In some cases this resulted in promotion, in others demotion to a lower grade and a salary cut of up to£15,000 after a year. In the coming months, more officers are expected to leave as their salaries plummet.

Some of those who got jobs in the new structure now work in different departments unrelated to their previous specialisms.

The number of specialists in the education department has been halved, raising questions of how the team can deliver on such a major government policy priority. One officer said: 'The knives are out for the LGA's education department.'

Ian Foulkes, former head of public protection, left the association last month after accepting a redundancy package. He said: 'Brian Briscoe and the management team have a different idea of what the LGA should be and have restructured to achieve that vision. In the process, unfortunately, they have got rid of or lost a substantial body of expertise across the association - up to 17 people with many years of policy experience have left or are planning to leave.'

He believes council members have been kept in the dark about the extent of specialist expertise that has been lost, and raised questions over whether the association can provide value for money to its members.

Other officers, however, believe the new structure is the way forward.

New director of education and social policy John Ransford said: 'I don't think we can ever be the experts. What we have to do is link things up, provide information, point people to where they can get information and get a really rapid response to local government. The new organisation will be able to do this more. It will have a much more strategic role.'

Mr Briscoe said: 'We are moving to a project way of working to do things that really matter to the LGA. Some staff may feel their personal futures have been affected by decisions made, but I am disappointed they feel this is appropriate to broadcast.

'We consulted staff on five separate occasions about the LGA's vision and direction of change. We also consulted every member of the LGA's executive committees and we have their full support.'

The restructuring is designed to ensure the association is able to use resources more effectively to focus on the issues facing local government at any one time, he said.

'Our new arrangements will allow us to access experts in local government who can provide us with the kind of specialist skills and experience we need for the organisation to work effectively,' he added.

'Two of the things that have informed what we've done are a staff survey, which clearly identified a need for change, and a working group comprising people from all levels. So staff throughout the organisation had a say in what we're going through.'

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