LETTER: Protecting highly regarded officers

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As part of a diverse membership of Horsham District Council, we councillors all have differing ideas and political affiliations, which of course represents genuine democracy.

However, having said that, I simply must respond to the last paragraph of my fellow councillor’s letter to this paper last Thursday.

Frances Haigh has personalised this paragraph and taken the view that she is ‘ashamed of the way that the council has behaved’ and blames Tory councillors by suggesting that their poor financial management has resulted in many officers becoming ‘scapegoats’ resulting in a loss of income for many.

I have no desire to become embroiled in the proverbial slanging match but would just like to say the following.

I am a member of the personnel committee but Mrs Haigh is NOT and therefore has not been present at all the myriad meetings discussing the new pay and review conditions.

Elected councillors and the officers of HDC work closely together and it has been the cause of considerable soul searching, for all members of the Personnel Committee who have had to listen and understand the need for such measures, to reach agreement to the new conditions that she refers to.

Without the hard work and co-operation of our officers we as councillors would be completely lost and we all appreciate and have immense sympathy for those adversely affected.

However, it must also be stated that this is not just a process of cutting but it is one where revised pay scales will offer a new and much fairer appraisal of the positions that staff hold and the salaries they receive.

So to personalise this myself, I want to say that I find it distressing that by implication, as a Tory councillor, I care less about the officers than other members.

The actions of the Personnel Committee have been forced by the serious economic problems facing the country and all local authorities, leading to the subsequent loss of direct funding from Government.

Mrs Haigh would do well to remember that as custodians of public money we councillors have a duty to ensure that we are getting best value for the taxpayer whilst trying to deliver the best possible services.

Lastly, although ostensibly we have underspent in this financial year, due to the aforementioned and ongoing loss of grants, we could easily fall into an overspend situation in the near future, and this in turn could result in mass redundancies, rather than the actions we have taken, which hopefully will help protect the employment of our highly regarded officers.

TRICIA YOUTAN

(Con) Horsham district councillor for Slinfold, Warnham and Itchingfield, North Street, Horsham