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‘Friendly robot’ to run councils after staff cuts

A landmark South Hams Council cost-cutting decision to slash scores of jobs in the biggest district council shake up in decades has been condemned as too ‘rushed’.
Between them, the Tory-run South Hams and West Devon councils reckon they can save a total of £6m by getting rid of 97 jobs across offices at Tavistock and Totnes.
Both district councils have just voted to embrace a new model for running the councils using state-of-the-art technology to fill in the staffing gaps left by the redundancies.
The move will mean remaining staff will have to work in more flexible ways to retain a frontline service to the public.
But opponents claim that the council will be hit by more than £1m in redundancy pay- outs as a result of the shake- up.
And Totnes Green councillor Alan Gorman told the district council at Follaton House: ‘The first target for cost-cutting is staff.
‘From this I get the impression there will be no staff at all and there will be just one big robot programmed to seem friendly.’
The Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour minority parties on South Hams Council joined up to oppose the major changes, claiming that the council had only looked at one option for overcoming the inevitable budget crisis facing the council following huge cuts in Government funding.
They claimed that the council could avoid redundancies by reducing council staff hours by 25 per cent – which would reduce the high cost of redundancy pay-outs.
They suggested the council should also invest in renewable energy and social housing and sell its advisory services to support its budget by increasing its income.
Cllr Mr Gorman said: ‘We are being rushed. The staff are our human resource. Most residents need to speak to a human being when they are in trouble and need to contact their local council.’
But their concerns were swept aside by the dominant Conservative group as South Hams Council leader John Tucker.
He told them: ‘We know the technology works, we have seen it work in other places and there is no reason why it should not work for us.
‘These radical changes within this authority will give residents a better product in the end.’

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