Oxford City Council - Redeployment of furloughed staff

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Oxford City Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Natasha Abimbola

Dear Oxford City Council,

Since the furlough scheme was introduced in March 2020 there has been times when combined there has been over 200 Oxford City Council and Oxford Direct Services employees furloughed.

Please detail on what basis the decision to furlough staff was taken and who authorised the decision.

Throughout the pandemic there was often requests on the Oxford City Council social media for volunteers to help out in the community. Instead of paying employees to stay at home why were Council employees not redeployed into other roles to support those undertaking critical services. I do understand that there may have been some employees who were self-isolating for medical reasons, but I do not accept that was the case with all those who were furloughed.

Some employees furloughed were earning in excess of £50K / year? I find it difficult to comprehend that senior personnel on that salary grade could not work from home? If they had no work why were they not redeployed to help out in foodbanks or in some other useful capacity instead of being paid to do nothing at home. Please give an explanation as to why that was not the case.

It would seem to me that Oxford City Council and Oxford Direct Services have not made use of the furlough scheme in the spirit of what it was intended.

Yours faithfully,

Natasha Abimbola

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Ms Abimbola,

Oxford City Council – Reference: 10046

Thank you for your email below. Your request was received on 13th April 2021 and you will be sent a response within 20 working days (of receipt) in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000/ Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), subject to the information not being exempt or containing reference to a third party.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recognises the unprecedented challenges all are facing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In particular they understand that resources, whether they are finances or people, may be diverted away from usual compliance or information rights work. Whilst the ICO can’t extend statutory timescales, they will not be penalising public authorities for prioritising other areas or adapting their usual approach during this extraordinary period.

Therefore while the Council will make every effort to comply with the Statutory Requirements you may experience understandable delays when making information rights requests during the pandemic.

Yours sincerely

Kathryn Winfield
Information Governance Requests Officer

Kathryn Winfield | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS | Email: [email address] | T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.

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freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

 
Dear Ms Abimbola,
 
Oxford City Council – Reference: 10046
 
Further to the acknowledgement below, I can respond to your Freedom of
Information Act 2000 request received on   13th April 2021 as follows:
 
Since the  furlough scheme was introduced in March 2020 there has been
times when combined there has been over 200  Oxford City Council and
Oxford Direct Services employees furloughed.
 
Please detail on what basis the decision to furlough staff was taken and
who authorised the decision.
 
There was an urgent decision by the Chief Executive on 6 April 2020:
 
[1]https://mycouncil.oxford.gov.uk/ieDecisi...
 
Oxford Direct Services response:
 
The members of Oxford Direct Services (ODS) staff who were furloughed due
to the Covid pandemic were in all instances furloughed strictly in
accordance with the relevant government guidelines.   The majority of
staff furloughed held front-line operational roles where it was impossible
to deliver services due to government restrictions.  The authorisation to 
furlough staff was considered and agreed by the ODS Executive Team with
the intention of protecting these jobs in the longer term. 
Some employees furloughed were earning in excess of £50K / year? I find it
difficult to comprehend that senior personnel on that salary grade could
not work from home? If they had no work why were they not redeployed to
help out in foodbanks  or in some other useful capacity instead of being
paid to do nothing at home. Please give an explanation as to why that was
not the case.
 
The was no legal restriction preventing local authorities from using the
scheme
 
The Council has working from home arrangements and has redeployed staff,
including the staffing of Hubs to provide emergency frontline services.
This has enabled minimisation of the use of the furlough scheme, but it
was not possible for all staff to work from home or be redeployed.
 
During the pandemic and the associated lockdowns, where it was possible
for them to do so, ODS staff were instructed to work from home.  Where
their jobs required physical attendance at work, staff either attended to
continue delivering key services, or where the service in which they were
engaged was affected by the government restrictions, they were, where
possible and appropriate, allocated to other work including supporting the
community hubs and assisting in the Covid testing centres.
 
If you disagree with any part of the response to your request, you are
entitled to ask the Council for an internal review of the decision(s)
made.  You may do this by writing to the Monitoring Officer, by either
email – [2][email address] – or by post to Monitoring Officer, Oxford
City Council, St Aldate’s Chambers, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1DS.  After
the result of the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you may ask
the Information Commissioner to intervene on your behalf.  You may do this
by writing to the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Kathryn Winfield
Information Governance Requests Officer
 
Kathryn Winfield | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City
Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |
Email: [3][email address] | T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
 
Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance.
Get tested if you have symptoms.
 
 
 
 

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Natasha Abimbola

Dear freedomofinformation,

Why was Oxford Direct Services making use of Trident Property Services painting contractors when ODS's own tradespeople were at home on furlough?

Yours sincerely,

Natasha Abimbola