(Note: Since I wrote this post, I have had a reply from Alec Robertson as detailed in red below)
It's the start of a week of programmes on the BBC focussing on local government. Over breakfast there were the competing delights of Evan Davis ripping Local Government Minister John Denham to shreds on the Today Programme (scroll forward two hours and 10 mins) and the four party leaders in Cornwall speaking to Radio Cornwall (scroll forward about 2 hours).
But the main headline concerns a survey by the BBC about the level of job cuts in councils around the country. They claim that the total will be more than 25,000.
Here in Cornwall, there is still a lot of confusion about what cuts the Conservatives are planning. There was a think tank report which claimed that the number would be around 3500. This was dismissed by Deputy Leader Jim Currie who appeared to say that the real number would be about 1500.
And then, almost three weeks ago, the Council and the unions got together and said that the number would be about 500-600 and these would come through natural wastage (ie not replacing people who retire or resign.
So I wrote to Council Leader Alec Robertson to ask him what the true position is - will there be 500-600 job losses or 1500? And how would the decision be taken about which jobs should not be replaced? He has confirmed that the true picture is the 500-600 figure and that the '1500' number was a misrepresentation by Radio Cornwall of what Jim Currie actually said.
I am not automatically opposed to slimming down the workforce. There are room for more efficiencies within the council. But these need to be carefully planned. It's no good adopting a blanket 'natural wastage' policy as this will almost certainly lead to cuts to vital services. Instead, the policy of which jobs will not be replaced should be agreed in advance. And that debate should happen in public so that we know which services are likely to suffer. And, crucially, we need to know how many cuts there will be.
Whilst I am grateful to the Council Leader for confirming the likely number of job losses, we still need to know more about how this will be managed to ensure no loss of frontline services.