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Heated debate over motion giving more time to Denbighshire Council over threat to jobs

A MOTION, calling on Denbighshire Council to give its job threatened homelessness prevention team more time to consult on a “reorganisation”, prompted a heated response from a cabinet member.

Cllr Glenn Swingler (Denbigh Upper/Henllan) told Denbighshire’s full council meeting on Tuesday his notice of motion was not intended to “interfere with officers’ powers”.

It called for the decision date for the reorganisation to be put back from February 1 until a council scrutiny committee had the chance to “examine the reasoning” behind the move.

However, Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, lead member for education, said the motion would never have happened had it been “communicated in the first place”.

Cllr Hilditch-Roberts said:

“This is an example, further examples we have had already this week, that we are not getting information about what’s happening operationally.

“There is a big divide and this needs to stop. I would support this going to scrutiny because I don’t know what’s happening.

“I fully support this motion because it’s important members are not kept in the dark about what’s happening in our council.

“I respect the process of restructuring is for the head of the service but this wouldn’t be here if we had been communicated with and had sight of this earlier.”

His outburst came after council Leader Hugh Evans had earlier outlined how cabinet members only found out about another council matter in the press.

He said an issue with staff potentially sharing emails, intended for them to book a Covid vaccination, was only “familiar to officers” until reports surfaced in the media.

Chief executive Judith Greenhalgh admitted she had known about the “glitch” in the vaccination booking system for staff 10 days before cabinet members eventually found out, the meeting heard.

Presenting the motion Cllr Swingler said Plaid Cymru was “very supportive” of the team and saw housing and homelessness as “a priority”.

He added: “We supported the paper on homelessness in the last full council meeting without knowing any of this restructuring was going on.

“The only reason we know about it now was that somebody within that department went to the newspapers.”

The homelessness prevention team was told jobs could be cut and work outsourced just two weeks before Christmas and a consultation would be starting on the future of the 22 posts in the team.

At the time a council spokesman confirmed the proposal was to cut the team to 17  but the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understood staff would have to re-apply for many of the new roles.

Staff were angry some of the roles offered to them were at lower grades than current jobs within the service, especially as Welsh Government had pledged £50m extra to local authorities across Wales to fight homelessness.

Cllr Swingler said councillors had a “corporate responsibility” towards council staff and asked for assurances from the lead member for well-being and independence, Cllr Bobby Feeley, scrutiny or cabinet would get to discuss the proposals before a decision was made.

Cllr Feeley read a prepared statement outlining Welsh Government guidelines which put homelessness and rapid rehousing at the heart of its homelessness strategy.

It had instructed councils to take “assertive action” to reach “the most disengaged rough sleepers” and she said there were “required changes” to deal with the problem of homelessness.

This includes developing a multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals and other specialised staff.

She said details had not been shared, “in line with council policy” because a consultation was ongoing.

Cllr Feeley said the consultation with the affected staff was supposed to close on January 20 but was extended until the 29th.

Community support services would consider the responses before reaching a conclusion by the end of February, she added. Changes to the team will be implemented by May this year.

She added: “The people at the heart of the work we do are the people who are homeless. They are the main people we are thinking about during this.”

Cllr Swingler said he would withdraw the motion “on the understanding” that the details of the move went to scrutiny at some point “for an in-depth look”.

He said he wanted “happy staff in the right place” but was disappointed councillors had heard about the reorganisation “in the newspaper”.

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