Thorpe Lodge, Broadland District Council's offices

Last-ditch attempt to fight off job losses at Norfolk council fails

By richard wheeler
Saturday, January 26, 2013
6.30 AM

Staff are preparing for job losses after a last-ditch attempt to delay proposals to disband a council department failed.

Four positions are set to be cut under Broadland District Council’s plan to end its strategy, community and housing service little more than 12 months after it was created.

Opposition Liberal Democrats asked for the decision to be delayed until an ongoing investigation into a conduct complaint against former deputy leader Jo Cottingham is completed.

An independent investigator is examining an accusation that Mrs Cottingham stated she wanted to get rid of Liz Mowl, the head of the strategy, community and housing department, whose job role is among those to be axed.

Liberal Democrat councillor Barbara Rix claimed Mrs Cottingham made the comments to her at a book sale in August, before the proposal to disband the department was announced to staff.

Dan Roper, Lib Dem deputy group leader, warned there was the possibility the council could be liable for increased costs at any future tribunal case if the plan was approved before the investigation was completed.

Martin Thrower, Broadland’s monitoring officer, confirmed legal advice on this issue had been sought on three occasions and they were informed the two matters were “not intertwined”.

The Lib Dem amendment was defeated at Thursday night’s full council meeting.

Ruling Conservatives eventually voted through the decision to disband the department, despite four Tories –Tony Adams, Jonathan Emsell, Claudette Bannock and Michael Snowling – joining Lib Dems and the sole Labour councillor in opposing the idea.

Becky Tye, Unison branch secretary at Broadland, had earlier told councillors the authority’s community engagement workload, which involves talking to communities about projects in their areas, will not decrease but staff numbers will.

The council has previously stated there will be a greater emphasis on all staff carrying out “community engagement” in their normal roles.