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Staff praised as council gets top awards nod
Wednesday 14th May, 2014

Staff praised as council gets top awards nod
MJ Awards Cheerleaders

Wigan Council has been nominated for one of the most prestigious prizes in local government – despite the authority dealing with cuts of more than £100m.

Wigan is one of six authorities shortlisted for the “Best Achieving Council” prize at the annual MJ Awards – which honours excellence in local government across the country.

Wigan Council is the only authority from the North West to have been nominated for what’s seen as the most prestigious accolade in the industry. The council’s joint adoption service, WWiSH, has also been shortlisted for a prize at the awards – organised by the Municipal Journal and backed by the Local Government Association.

The nomination comes despite Wigan Council seeing its budget cut by 30 per cent – one of the biggest budget cuts faced by any authority in the country. Judges were impressed by the council’s strong performance across a range of services. Singled out for particular praise was the council’s education support, the borough’s increased recycling levels and the high-profile “Believe” campaign.

The awards nod is being seen as testament to the council’s 4,000 employees – 80 per cent of who live in the borough – who’ve faced significant upheaval since government cuts were announced. Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan Council, said: “This is a huge coup for Wigan Council and is quite clearly a direct result of the hard work of our staff.

“The huge reduction we’ve seen in our budget from central government has meant we’ve had to make some major changes. Throughout this challenging process our staff have remained positive and committed to serving the people of the borough.

“I’m proud we’ve been nominated for this hugely prestigious national award and proud of our staff whose efforts have made it happen and deserve recognition like this.”

As a result of budget cuts, many employees have had to take on new responsibilities and seen major changes to their roles. Despite this, a recent staff survey showed satisfaction levels are increasing among employees and days lost to sickness are declining.

Donna Hall said: “Our focus on providing value for money and transforming services by working more closely with residents has the full support of our staff who understand the increasing pressures and demands on the council.

“We’ve been on a difficult journey having to cut more than £65m and must save a further £40m. Throughout this process, we’ve made supporting and listening to staff a priority. We have a strong ethos of “one team - one council” and it is clearly paying off.”

Staff have expressed their delight at the council’s nomination. Jill Cooper, 52, a HR support assistant from Ashton-in-Makerfield, said: “It’s nice for us to be recognised. It shows the council can still provide excellent service to our residents even with the difficult financial challenges we face.”

Jill’s job has changed entirely in recent years since the self-service system was introduced in the council’s public buildings. She’s worked for the council for 35 years. “I’ve always felt privileged and proud to represent the council and the borough,” she said.

David Alker, 33, from Orrell found a new job within the council when his previous team was restructured. He said: “I worked within the housing benefits team for nine years until 2012. I then joined the customer services team and opened the new reception desk at the town hall. I enjoy my current role as every day is different.

“The award nomination confirms the council is making the right decisions, although perhaps sometimes very difficult ones.”

Margaret Burrows, 50, from Hindley, a support worker at the central day centre said the “recognition is brilliant”. She said: “We’ve had some difficult times but I’ve always felt the council has tried to listen and be considerate. I’ve had a lot of support and been given some good opportunities.”

The awards will be presented to winners by actor and comedian Hugh Dennis at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London on Thursday 19 June.

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