Jobs threat at Lake District National Park Authority - but park chief says all services will be protected (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Jobs threat at Lake District National Park Authority - but park chief says all services will be protected
JOBS are at risk at the Lake District National Park Authority as it grapples with further cuts and reductions to its annual grant.
Bosses at its Murley Moss headquarters are in a 45-day consultation with the 200-strong workforce on a new restructure.
Park officials say they are determined to avoid compulsory losses and a voluntary redundancy programme has opened.
Chief executive Richard Leafe expects job losses to be ‘very minimal’ but said he could not give figures until the consultation is over.
The park is looking to reduce its running costs including its £5million annual wage bill and may now sell off some of its £13million estate.
Since the coalition’s austerity drive came in, the park has had to absorb and prepare for its annual grant being reduced from £7.2million in 2010, to what will be £5.2million by 2016 – a 28 percent cut.
A source claimed staff were facing downgrades and posts being reduced to part-time with morale reported to be ‘very low’.
But Mr Leafe insisted: “The National Park Authority is going to be a very positive place to work in the future because we have an agenda and a mission to look after and transform the national park for the future and we are committed to carrying that on.”
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It is feared that at its three information centres in Bowness, Keswick and UIlswater, zero hours contracts could be brought in and a loss of unsocial working allowances. Mr Leafe declined to address these claims, saying he would not carry out ‘consultation via the media’.
The authority has pared down its top team of directors from four to three and reiterated its restructure plans are ‘proposals not decisions’. It is waiting on staff and union feedback before any ideas are implemented or scrapped.
A park spokeswoman confirmed external HR consultants had been employed to ‘assist’ in the restructure. The spokesman added that their fees - described as ‘huge’ by a source - is not additional spend as they would be met from existing money in HR budgets.
Mr Leafe said the cost of the consultants was ‘nominal’ and maintained all of its services were being protected - no toilets would close, Brockhole was safe, its information centres secure and Coniston Boating Centre would remain.
The park spokesman said a clearer picture of the park’s future would emerge by mid-June when the consultation was over.
A statement read: “We are committed to avoiding the need for compulsory redundancy and recognise this is an uncertain time for our staff. The authority is seeking to achieve savings to protect services and to bring financial stability to the organisation for the next few years.”
An anonymous letter to the Gazette said staff feared ‘challenging proposals,’ and that the restructure contained ‘big gaps’.
In recent years, the authority has repositioned its focus to become more commercial. Targets are in place to increase commercial income every year although papers from the park’s last Resources Committee, which sat in November, carried a warning that some managers in some areas were ‘struggling to meet’ the 2013-14 target.
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