A Bromley councillor has expressed disappointment after finding out about a potential round of council staff redundancies in the local press.

In an open letter, Ian Dunn – a Labour councillor representing Clock House ward – also implored the authority to temporarily chip in funds to prevent members of the traffic team from being made redundant.

Cllr Dunn wrote to portfolio holder for environment and community services, William Huntington-Thresher, after the local democracy reporting service revealed the council’s traffic team was facing redundancy last week.  

It is still unclear how many employees will be impacted by the changes, which the council says it is forced to do after Transport for London (TfL) suspended its local implementation plan (LIP) funding due to the financial havoc inflicted by coronavirus.

LIP funding is used by local authorities to implement and improve traffic and transport work in London’s boroughs.

In his letter, Cllr Dunn mentioned “how disappointed” he was to learn of the proposals through the News Shopper newspaper.

While he acknowledged those most impacted would be staff, he expressed surprise the environment scrutiny committee – on which he sits – wasn’t informed or briefed on the potential cuts.

Cllr Dunn said members of the traffic team “had a great deal of detailed knowledge” of Bromley’s roads built up from years of experience and redundancies would “mean that this knowledge would be lost to the borough, with negative long term results to its road users”.

In his pitch to the portfolio holder, Cllr Dunn said the interruption to the LIP funding is “unlikely” to be permanent, and implored the council to cover salaries until it is reinstated.

“Surely, it would make sense for Bromley Council to fund these salaries for the duration of the interruption, so that this knowledge is not lost to the borough,” he said.

News Shopper: TfL's LIP funding was aimed at implementing better transport and traffic management measures around the borough.TfL's LIP funding was aimed at implementing better transport and traffic management measures around the borough.

While he said the pandemic had introduced increased uncertainty on council finances, he said the authority was still in a strong position – after underspending on its revenue budget in recent years – with last year’s report showing an underspend in contingency of £9.3m.

In his response, Cllr Huntington-Thresher said the authority had not “sought to publicise a private consultation process for staff”.

However, “as it is now in the public domain, let me say I am sure Cllr Dunn is aware of the speed that this has been forced upon us as a direct result of TfL managed by Mayor (Sadiq) Khan and their cancellation of the previously promised LIP funding grant”.

“We all need to remember that this is at a very early stage and no decisions have been made, with the implications not known,” he said, adding the first priority was affected staff.

The Orpington ward member, however, ruled out the council chipping in the funding, saying it was already supporting TfL, and accused Cllr Dunn of ignoring the Labour-led London authority’s “directly culpability” for the funding withdrawal.

“I do not wish to pre-judge the discussions to come, but the council cannot simply finance everything we might wish to with council funding – if only it were that simple,” he replied.

“The council, as always, will have to prioritise some areas over others and also has to prepare for the costs that will arise if there is a pandemic resurgence this winter.”

He said he had already written to Deputy Mayor of London for Transport asking for funding to be restored as early as possible.

“I note Cllr Dunn’s comments that the withdrawal of funding is unlikely to be permanent, ignoring Transport for London’s direct culpability for the current crisis for narrow party political purposes, if he has any inside knowledge when our full multi-million funding will theoretically be restored, then I would ask him to share this as this is not something we have been told.”

“I have already asked Cllr Dunn if he is supporting my call for the Deputy Mayor to fully restore our funding, and I await his reply.”