Exclusive: Redundant staff kept payoffs in new council jobs

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NEARLY 30 employees who left one of the region’s biggest councils have returned to work for the authority in new roles – while keeping their redundancy pay.

Sheffield City Council, which has spent £14.4m on 509 redundancies since April 2009, admitted 29 had gone on to be re-employed by the council.

NHS chiefs have also admitted re-hiring staff who have taken redundancy, the money only being reclaimed if they take up their new role within four weeks of leaving.

A spokesman for Sheffield City Council said: “The 29 people who returned to employment with the council will keep their redundancy payments as they will not have returned to their original post, which will have been deleted, but will have been appointed to a different post.”

But Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith is urging Sheffield City Council to spell out more details about the re-employment of the staff amid concern that if staff were re-employed swiftly in full-time roles they may have been better off being redeployed than made redundant.

Ms Smith said: “I think it would be in the interests of the council to explain fully how these people were re-engaged and on what terms.”

Several organisations admitted re-employing staff who had taken redundancy. York Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said three people had been rehired in different roles after applying through an external recruitment process.

A spokesman for the trust said: “The national NHS terms and conditions do not allow for the trust to claim back a redundancy payment if an employee gains employment with the NHS after a break of four weeks.

“Staff are not entitled to redundancy payments if they gain suitable alternative employment with the same employer, or another NHS employer, either without a break or with a break of less than four weeks.”

Councils and other parts of the public sector say they have no choice but to reduce their workforce as funding is reduced as the Government tackles the large budget deficit in the wake of the economic crisis.

Funding for councils, the NHS and emergency services are all facing a squeeze. The GMB union claims that by 2014, a total of 21,487 public sector posts in Yorkshire and the Humber will have gone, although not all will mean redundancies because some will simply not be filled when an employee leaves or retires.

According to the figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post, by next April 10,000 jobs will have been cut since 2009, at a cost of more than £200m.

The Yorkshire organiser for the GMB union, Neil Derrick, said: “These figures are shocking. The money that’s being spent on redundancies is money that has been taken out of the Yorkshire economy and will not be reinvested because the vast majority of the people made redundant in Yorkshire will not find gainful employment in the near future.”

Ministers knew they would not become popular by wielding the axe but insist it is necessary to get the economy back to health. The Government insists more private sector jobs will be created than public sector jobs lost, although the Yorkshire Post has revealed recently the fears of a North-South jobs divide, with employment levels up in London over the past year but down in this region.

Robert Goodwill, Tory MP for Scarborough and Whitby, said: “We’ve seen the private sector create 500,000 jobs and that’s balanced against about 150,000 job losses in the public sector.

“We’ve already seen that it’s possible to contract the public sector and expand the private sector so the people whose jobs will be going will find alternative employment in the tax generating part of the economy rather than the tax spending part of it.”

One authority looking to buck the trend is Hull City Council, where the Labour leadership insists it has no plans for any further redundancies and says it will “soon be making an announcement on some recruitment”.

York Teaching Hospitals paints a more typical picture. A spokesman said: “Like all NHS organisations, we have had to make efficiency savings. We have made every effort to do this without making compulsory redundancies.

“However, the needs of the trust vary over time as our services change and develop, which can mean that posts are no longer required.

“Often staff are able to be redeployed into different roles, but in a small number of cases we have made redundancies.”