HR jobs at risk as councils axe thousands of staff

Hundreds of HR jobs are at risk as local councils reveal plans to axe thousands of public sector staff to combat the ailing economy.

The HR chief at Buckinghamshire County Council, Gillian Hibberd, yesterday told Personnel Today that some of the 400 jobs planned to go at the local authority will be from the HR function.

Her comments follow news that 40 councils approached by The Times were planning a total of 7,000 redundancies.



  • Bristol and Nottingham City Councils each plan to cut 400 posts
  • Oldham up to 850 jobs
  • Northumberland up to 800 posts
  • Newcastle 500 jobs
  • Westminster about 200 temporary and permanent positions

The newspaper said both management and support functions – including HR – are being scrutinised.

Hibberd, corporate director of people and policy at Buckinghamshire, said the cuts would start this year. “They may impact the HR department, but it’s three-year programme and there will be many projects,” she said.

“We’re looking at a shared services programme with other district councils and local emergency services, but the decisions haven’t been made yet,” she added.

Hibberd , who is also vice-president of the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, which represents public sector HR professionals, said the public sector was not exempt from having to make cost savings.

“We have to find more efficient ways to deliver services and look into every corner of the organisation and challenge ourselves to see if there’s a better way,” she said.

Nottingham City Council blamed the jobs cull on a requirement to make efficiency savings which have become incredibly difficult in the current economic climate.

A statement on the council’s website said: “The combination of the global recession – that has caused some of our costs to rise significantly and our income to fall – and the need for a significant investment providing child protection services means that it will not be possible to set a balanced budget for 2009/10 without reducing the number of staff employed by the Council.”

It added: “Nottingham City Council is not unique in this respect – reductions in staff numbers to deliver significant savings are being implemented at many other local authorities.”

Hibberd’s views contradict those expressed by some HR directors that the public sector can be seen as a ‘safe haven’ during difficult economic times.

Yesterday the Monster Employment Index revealed that demand for HR jobs, as measured by the number of online vacancies across corporate sites and job boards, had hit the lowest figure since it began compiling the index in 2004.

Hugo Sellert, head of economic research at Monster Worldwide, told Personnel Today: “Many firms are cutting back HR in anticipation of slow hiring this year. Businesses are struggling. A lot of the cuts [in HR] are in recruitment. Within the corporate HR function, employee engagement and talent management are safer.”

Year-on-year, demand for HR professionals plummeted 63%, the Monster index showed.

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