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Council looks to furlough some staff and use Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Colchester Borough Council is set to furlough some of its staff, to limit the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The local authority said it would begin to make applications to the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough staff who are unable to work or who are employed in the council’s commercial operations that have been forced to close because of COVID-19.

Colchester said: “Since the Government’s emergency measures were introduced last month, the council has ensured as many staff as possible can continue to work either from home, on the frontline or through redeployment to other services. Examples include staff at Colchester Leisure World joining the Helpline and Waste Services teams and Parking enforcement officers supporting Neighbourhood services and Cemetery and Crematorium operations.

“However, the decision has now been taken to furlough some staff who cannot currently fulfil their roles because they are vulnerable and shielding, caring for relatives and unable to carry out work from home, or because they cannot be redeployed to other service areas.”

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The local authority said that, in all cases, furloughed staff would continue to receive full pay, with the council topping up the 80% contributed by the Government.

It added that as soon as opportunities arise, they will be asked to return to a role within the council as quickly as possible.

Staff will also be encouraged to volunteer for Community 360 and the Foodbank during their furlough, if they can.

Adrian Pritchard, Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Council, said: “Everyone has worked so incredibly hard over the last few weeks to ensure council services continue to be delivered to our residents and the most vulnerable in our community.

“I’d like to make it absolutely clear that those who have been furloughed remain part of our valued staff."

He added: “Our main priority is that all our staff are safe and that we protect those who are unable to work because of their health. Using this scheme helps us to do this while also assisting our organisation financially through this difficult time.

“We look forward to near-normal times and all our staff returning to work safe and well.”

Cllr David King, Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, said: “Despite the recent welcome news the council is to receive a further £1.94m from the Government to help us deal with the immediate impacts of coronavirus, that aid meets only 20% of our likely losses this year. That is why we have made the difficult decision to furlough staff we cannot redeploy. 

“This action, along with the Government’s latest funding pledge, will help us mitigate some of the pressing financial challenges created by the pandemic, which have significantly reduced the council’s income.

“I would like to reassure everyone that we are doing everything we can to support our communities through this unprecedented time and that our key services will continue to be provided for the duration of this crisis and beyond.”

Ipswich Borough Council also revealed on 8 May that it would be furloughing more than 200 employees (in a mix of  full and part-time roles) under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

"Those affected work in services such as theatres and sports centres that are unable to operate fully. We have redeployed nearly 120 staff - but we are taking this additional action and it should save the council about £100,000 over the next three weeks," it said.

Transport for London (TfL) placed 7,000 staff whose work had been reduced or paused as a result of the coronavirus pandemic on furlough from 27 April.

It said the move would allow it to access funding from the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), saving the organisation an estimated £15.8m every four weeks.

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