Photo: Tony Dawson

Services at Southport’s Botanic Garden could have been saved many times over and all Southport’s branch Libraries could have been kept open claims a local Lib Dem councillor, had proposed cutbacks in Sefton Council’s management structure been brought forward earlier.


Councillor Tony Dawson is the Lib Dem representative on Sefton Council’s Employment Procedure Committee which deals with senior staff appointments and discipline.


A report from the Committee’s recent meeting is coming before the Council on Thursday night which is supporting a massive reduction in senior staff posts, saving over a million pounds per year, with more to come.


Councillor Dawson says:


“The Lib Dem budget amendments in March highlighted the fact that there was massive scope for reducing the Council’s management to reflect a leaner fitter organisation – as well as reducing the number of councillors to two per ward to help share the financial burden. We wanted to use this money to preserve a number of vital areas of service, including the Botanic Gardens. The senior council officers who scrutinised our proposals agreed they were feasible but Labour voted them down.”


“The Lib Dems have been pressing this ‘fitter management’ agenda for some time and the Chief Executive Margaret Carney is to be praised for bringing forward radical plans which could save the council more than £2 million per year when they are fully-implemented. But we have to ask ourselves why the political leadership of the council has failed to bring forward this programme much earlier. They have preferred to see vital services like our precious branch libraries be cut down and penny-pinching cutbacks at the Botanic Gardens which have undermined the magnificent work done by the volunteers there.”


The Chief Executive’s proposal, endorsed by the Employment Procedure Committee, is to remove all the current ‘Directorships’ in the Council and replace these by two and a half highly-paid assistant Chief Executives with free-floating briefs to become involved where and when Margaret Carney wants them to be. These new employees will be titled ‘Executive Directors’ and will have no specific departmental responsibilities. All the Council’s third tier Heads of Service will now report directly to the Chief Executive. Because the new Executive Director posts are identified as being worth paying over £100,000 per year, their appointments are required by law to be discussed by the full Council rather than just the Cabinet.


Cllr Dawson has praised the speed and efficiency with which the Chief Executive has gone about the re-organisation. While local politicians have been absorbed in a month and a half of elections, dozens of interviews have been held and the new more economic structure has been largely filled.


“Sefton’s Labour Party has a long history of dragging its feet on senior staff economies, preferring to see cutbacks in services. The last time a Chief Executive brought forward such proposals, the Labour and Tory councillors tried to replace him with his deputy and unlawfully made him redundant just to save four senior staff posts which had to go eventually anyway. This time, they are finally allowing to be done what should have been done some time ago. ‘Too little, too late?’ Although they are rather late, these changes are certainly far from being little.”


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