Unison warns of ‘up to 15-20’ jobs at risk in Thanet council restructure

Thanet council

Trade union Unison says it understands between 15 and 20 staff are affected by Thanet council’s  ‘restructure’ of tourism, coastal and operational services – but adds that it is hoping for a U-turn.

The authority concluded a consultation period with staff whose jobs were put at risk last month. The outcome of that process is expected to be made public this month.

Cuts have been examined across Thanet council departments as part of an  ‘efficiencies’ programme.

According to the budget for 2019-20 -which was agreed by a majority at full council on February 28 – proposals were to make £250,000 in savings.

‘Economic effect’

Unison regional organiser Mark Hammond confirmed the union is representing affected members and awaiting news of a final decision.

He added: “They have concluded the process. We do not know the final decision  but believe the number of redundancies is potentially 15 to 20. We know there is potential for the redundancies but are of the view that the council cannot afford to make them. We hope a decision will be for no redundancies.

“These are services to the town and wider area of Thanet and (the cut proposals) will take money out of the economy. Thanet is not a thriving place for employment and the council is one of the biggest employers so the economic effect will spiral down.”

Tourism in Thanet

Photo Thanet Coast Project

Local tourism is the biggest boost to Thanet’s economy with some 4.2 million visitors and an annual £319 million spend  each year, supporting 7,950 jobs.

Those figures are expected to grow significantly this year with the Turner Prize 2019 being hosted at Turner Contemporary in September.

Prior to that the gallery will implement a programme of local  art, creativity and innovation, encouraging people to visit throughout the year.

Visitors are supported by the isle’s tourism team and activities for both holidaymakers and residents are run by staff and the Thanet Coast Project team.

But among the posts at risk was that of Thanet Coast Project officer Tony Child.

Some of the work by the project through volunteer coastal wardens will continue to be supported by the Lottery funded ‘Guardians of the Deep’ programme but this is in the last year of its three year span. The scheme is led by the Kent Wildlife Trust,

Thanet Coast Project runs numerous activities on the isle including beach cleans, scavenger hunts, seashore safaris as well as conservation work and research.

Fears were also raised in March that the visitor service at Droit House would be closed  but Thanet council later revealed it would remain open after the authority secured another year on the lease of the property. However, staff jobs are still at risk.

Public campaigns

CHAIN REACTION: The toilet protest at Thanet council offices Photo John Horton

News of the cuts provoked a public outcry with petitions raised to save services at Droit House, another demanding a U Turn on the coast project cuts and a third demanding action after Thanet council said public toilets in Marine Drive would have to remain shut this Summer due to structural issues. The authority says it “is looking” at bringing in Portaloos and has 27 public facilities now open across the isle.

A demonstration demanding action over the toilet closure was held outside the council offices on April 25.

Resident Sam Bessant launched an 11th hour petition in a bid to persuade Thanet council to retain Mr Child’s post.

The petition stated: “The Thanet Coast Project has over 100 trained volunteers that need coordinating and without this key role, it is likely to be the end of the project.

“This volunteer resource provided over 2200 hours of work on the Thanet coast last year.”

Thanet council previously told The Isle of Thanet News: “Tourism is an integral part of our ongoing success as a destination. We are currently in the process of reviewing how we will continue to deliver this in the future to ensure this remains a successful part of our local economy.  This is in the wider context of the council facing serious financial pressures.”