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‘We shall not be moved,’ say angry borough council staff
12:21pm Monday 23rd April 2012 in News
“We’d rather be in Romsey” was the message emblazoned across the chests of angry council workers who took part in a protest outside their offices last Monday.
Around 25 Test Valley Borough Council staff donned specially- printed Romsey T-shirts and carried placards saying “Keep services local”, as they demonstrated against the authority’s plans to shut its offices in Duttons Road.
The closure would form part of a £1.1m savings programme, but the union UNISON, which organised yesterday’s protest, said it would mean the loss of 60 jobs and be to the detriment of Romsey residents and businesses.
Caroline Villiers, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Around 60 jobs will be lost from the town, at a time when unemployment is high, and TVBC is one of the largest employers in Romsey, where businesses are already struggling in the town. “People are passionate about staying in Romsey.”
She claimed low-paid women and part-time workers would not be able to afford the cost of travelling if they are relocated to Andover and would be forced to leave their jobs. “I think people will leave and I think the shops will notice the difference,” she added.
The protest also saw the launch of a petition for local businesses and residents to sign.
TVBC has said it is looking for smaller premises which could house a drop-in centre, staffed by around 20. It has identified a number of potential locations, but the former Magistrates Court, in Church Street is believed to be the favoured option.
The Duttons Road offices, which provides services including planning, benefits, council tax and parking permits, is currently a base for 85 employees.
TVBC says there are no plans to make any redundancies. It says some staff could relocate to its Beech Hurst offices in Andover, while others could work from home, or on the move with the aid of laptops and mobile phones.
A spokesman for TVBC said that where staff had to transfer to Andover, the council had a policy to reimburse mileage above their current journey for a limited time.
Test Valley Borough Council’s leader, Ian Carr, was quizzed about the proposals at Tuesday’s meeting of the full council.
Asked why the council had not consulted with the borough’s southern parishes about the possible closure, he said efforts had been made to ensure that the same facilities, including the ability to meet council staff in Romsey when needed, would be available as now.
He said that therefore the southern parish councils would continue to receive the same levels of service. If alternative premises were taken, all the customer service facilities on offer in Romsey would continue and any council and committee meetings currently held at Duttons Road would continue to be held in the south of the borough.
The measure is to go before cabinet members on June 20 and if approved would then be voted on by all councillors at a special council meeting on June 22.
Mr Carr added: “I will ensure that residents, parish councillors and southern borough councillors will continue to be able access the council’s professional officers in Romsey when required.”