Northants prepares its staff for shake-up

Northamptonshire County Council is to step up its internal comms work this summer, as part of its attempt to smooth through controversial plans to privatise backroom services.

Full details of the transfer of services to outsourcing firm Hyder Business Services (HBS) will be unveiled within the next two months. This will include a start date, likely to be in September or October, and the exact number of services to be transferred. At the moment only IT and HR are guaranteed to be out-sourced.

The council’s head of comms Peter Heaton said: ‘From now until the date of transfer, when more details come out about the hand-over, there will be a significant stepping up of the communications work.

‘This will include more things, such as road shows and especially one-to-one counselling. This is a huge thing for the council, for those staff being transferred and those who aren’t.’

Comms work is being overseen by the Partnership Communications Group, set up to co-ordinate PR surrounding the transfer, whose members include Heaton and the council’s internal comms manager Liz Fitzgerald. Also included are HBS staff, such as communications manager Melanie Rose, as well as UNISON representatives and council and HBS HR staff.

Heaton stressed that the council’s communications team was not under consideration for transfer.

As well as internal comms, there is also an external relations issue for the council in attempting to get information to staff before it is leaked to the local media. Nine out of ten times, the council has been successful in doing this, Heaton claimed.

Concern in the local media focuses on possible job cuts. Earlier this year it was reported that around 450 jobs could be shed in areas being contracted out.

Meanwhile, the council has this month redesigned its staff newsletter, Insight. This week’s issue contains a question and answer section about HBS.

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