Wiltshire highways workers face job cuts as contractors lose £1m
The private firm responsible for roads maintenance, grass cutting and litter picking has lost more than £1 million in the first three months of its contract with Wiltshire Council.
Now Balfour Beatty Living Places, already dogged by complaints of poor performance, is to make admin staff and supervisors working on the Wiltshire contract redundant and transfer workers away from road maintenance to grass cutting and litter picking, where they earn less.
The firm, which took up the contract with Wiltshire Council in June, called staff to a series of meetings at the New Inn in Coate, near Devizes, on Friday.
Contract manager Leon Jolly told staff the firm has made a loss of more than £1 million on the contract so far. He revealed seven voluntary redundancies among supervision and admin staff at depots across the county.
The firm is also planning to move 18 staff members from its routine maintenance teams, which handle road repairs, to the community team, which deals with grass cutting and litter picking.
The move has been criticised by the GMB Union, which represents highways workers. Carole Vallelly, GMB organising officer for Wiltshire said: “The whole thing has been an absolute fiasco. They put in a low bid, knowing they couldn’t deliver it for what they bid, so what they are now trying to do is reduce staff levels.
“It’s definitely not good news for Wiltshire; potholes can be potentially fatal, as can icy roads; these are the last areas that should be cut.”
James McDonald, chairman of the Longmeadow Trowbridge Area Residents’ Association, said: “We have still got areas that haven’t been done.
“If they can’t do the job with the staff they have got, they definitely won’t do it with fewer.”
Wiltlshire councillor John Thomson, the cabinet member responsible for highways, said: “It was always in their plan that after three months they would carry out a review of staffing. I’m not totally satisfied with how it has gone at the minute but it’s a big contract and these things take time. I can either give Balfour Beatty a kicking or sit down and talk the problems through in an intelligent manner, which I think is much more productive.
They are a big national company capable of providing a good service.”
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