New cabinets at Hull's Guildhall an 'appalling waste of money'
TWO new cabinets bought to exhibit the city's historic silver collection have been branded an "appalling waste of money".
Hull City Council has spent £8,000 on the new display cabinets.
They were being installed in the Guildhall yesterday at the same time as councillors were debating proposals to cut up to 240 jobs at the authority and slash a range of longstanding staff perks.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Dave McCobb said: "The cabinets are an appalling waste of money and are being installed at a time when more staff are facing redundancy.
"They were the first things to be paid for from a special fund set up by the council leader last year which was meant to be reserved for priority schemes.
"With due respect, I don't think flaunting the council's wealth in a pair of expensive cabinets is a priority at the moment."
It is believed the cabinets were bought after security concerns over the way some of the council's silver collection was being stored.
Council leader Councillor Steve Brady said: "We needed to improve the way the silver collection was exhibited.
"It's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but we have to get it right because we are working within a listed building."
He said the likely job cuts on the council's business support directorate were a legacy of previous Lib Dem administration's last budget which had authorised £3 million of savings in the department without specifying how they were to be achieved.
"More people will be leaving the authority but not all in one go like last year under the Lib Dems when 1,000 went through the door in a few weeks.
"It will be managed in a measured way because that it the right way to do it."
He said the planned changes to staff terms and conditions were also long overdue.
They are expected to see longstanding locally agreed deals on mileage, overtime and pay-outs for staff taking voluntary redundancy being renegotiated with trade unions.
Mr Brady said: "The message I want to get out is that flexibility will save jobs.
"For example, we can't carry on paying up to 65p a mile for certain car users when the national average is 45p. We are also supposed to be promoting Hull as a green city and having a mileage allowance which is far higher than most other councils doesn't fit well with that.
"I am sure the trade unions and the staff will understand we can't go on spending what we haven't got.
"The more flexibility we get from the staff, the more jobs we will be able to protect."
He blamed continuing cuts in Government funding to local councils for the financial squeeze at the Guildhall.
Latest estimates suggest the council faces having to make at least £33 million of savings over the next two years to balance its books.
In an e-mail sent to all staff earlier this week, confirming the intention to overhaul terms and conditions, interim chief executive Darryl Stephenson said: "I know this will not be welcome news."
Mr Stephenson said changing locally agreed terms and conditions was one way of protecting jobs and frontline services.
He said the council's current £160 million annual salary budget had to be trimmed.
"Some terms and conditions of city council employees can be seen as generous when compared with neighbouring authorities," he said.