As a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its finances, Chelmsford City Council has taken the decision to furlough some of its staff.
Most of the furloughed staff work in the Council's cultural or leisure services, such as Riverside Leisure Centre and Chelmsford Museum. These venues have been closed since lockdown measures were introduced in the UK in March.
Pressures on local authority budgets have been hitting the news in recent days. Councils, like companies and individuals in affected industries across the country, are facing significant budgetary pressure as a result of the pandemic. There is no income from leisure, theatres, events, museums or car parks, and these usually provide funding for vital services such as waste collection, housing, planning, public health and community safety.
The Council has redeployed as many staff as possible who are unable to carry on with their usual roles into other areas. However, there are some staff who cannot be redeployed or who are shielding or caring for relatives and unable to work from home.
All furloughed staff will continue to receive full pay, as the Council is topping up the 80% contributed by the Government, and they will be returned to work as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.
Most of the authority's office staff are currently working from home, while stringent hygiene and social distancing measures have been put in place to keep those who do return to their workplaces safe.
Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford, said, "We are accepting the Government's furlough offer as a way to ease these pressures and to continue providing essential services to residents. Our core services have continued throughout the pandemic thanks to the hard work of our staff and they are enormously appreciated for all that they do. Furlough will mean there is less financial difficulty for the authority and, we dearly hope, less need for cuts to services in the future."
In approximate terms, the wage contribution from the Government will save the Council roughly £187,000 per month. However, the total loss to income as a result of the pandemic is estimated at £5.2 million.
Councillor Goldman added, "Even with this move, there is still a big gap in local authority funding right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. We all hope that the Government will recognise and address this to protect local services for the communities that we work for."
For more information about the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough), please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Friday 29 May 2020