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Hundreds face job fear in reshuffle

Hundreds of key education staff in the three English county councils being abolished next April have yet to be found jobs.

The staff, responsible for finance, governor support, adult education, special needs and student grants, must in theory be allocated new jobs by the end of the first week in November, but many face the prospect of redundancy next year.

Under the Government's plans for reorganising local government in England, the counties of Cleveland, Avon and Humberside will disappear in 1996. Further extensive changes will take place the year after, including the possible abolition of Berkshire county council, which is challenging its fate in the courts.

Official rules state that all staff directly serving the public must be placed on statutory transfer orders by the November deadline. Most teachers have already been assigned to the councils - "unitaries" - which are to take over. But hundreds of education staff are proving difficult to assign to individual districts. In Cleveland, for example, the county's special needs schools are all located in the district of Stockton. Joint arrangements for admissions have yet to be agreed.

Ken Legg, Cleveland's chair of education, said the problem was not just the inevitable redundancies. "Numbers of very experienced staff - many in advisory teacher and headteacher capacities, specialists in the national curriculum - are taking early retirement, entailing a regrettable loss of experience, " he said.

Humberside has a problem because of its geography. Some 300 education staff have still to be allocated to the new districts. Some 40 per cent will have to be assigned across the Humber to North-East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire district councils, but many are reluctant to go, and these districts could face a shortage of specialists. However, Ken Green, of Humberside's education department, said all the councils were seeking the "smoothest possible" transition. "We are all trying to ensure there will be no direct effect on services to the public."

For such services as adult and special needs education, joint committees of the new districts will have to be set up along with new arrangements to provide for outdoors centres and other countywide educational facilities.

One victim of the process is likely to be Cleveland County Council's boat moored on the River Tees, used for nautical and other studies trips.

Mr Legg predicted a diminution in the quality and quantity of some specialist services now provided by the county, including learning and behaviour support education, social work and psychological services.

Tina Day, who is monitoring the redistribution of staff for the Association of County Councils, said the history of local government reorganisation showed things were often "all right on the night", but time was now running out and a breathless rush to reassign staff could leave "somebody to pick up the pieces later".

In Avon, one problem is continuing rivalry with the districts and Avon county and between the largest of the new unitaries, the City of Bristol. Some 500 staff out of Avon's education strength of 11,500 are still "unallocated", though a spokesperson for the county said it was hoped that by today it would have matched people with available posts. However, no arrangements have yet been made for Avon's unit for schoolgirl mothers, which will pass to the City of Bristol but will still be expected to serve the other districts.

Avon is as yet unable to predict how staff are to be allocated. Bristol and the other districts are reluctant to enter into any spending commitments until at least December, since only then will they have an idea of their official spending limit for 1996-97.

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