by political editor Paul Francis
The jobs of 260 children’s services staff at County Hall are to be axed in a major shake-up of the authority’s biggest department.
Employees working in Kent County Council’s largest directorate were formally told the news on Wednesday.
In total, about 160 staff are to be made redundant while a further 100 other posts that have been left vacant will not be filled.
The shake-up will save £8million and has sparked concerns that schools could lose vital support the authority is providing to help boost standards.
The redundancies are to take effect in September when KCC implements a far-reaching re-organisation of a department which is responsible for providing specialist support and advisory services to schools, as well as safeguarding vulnerable young children.
County education chiefs insist frontline services will be unaffected but admitted they had to do the job of providing support to 300,000 children, families and some 500-plus schools with less money.
In a statement, Cllr Sarah Hohler (Con) cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, said:
"Kent has an excellent reputation for its services for children, young people and their families and we are determined to continue this.
We are living in challenging economic times and it is essential we make economies and do things differently to make every penny count. Along with every local authority in England, we need to work more effectively with the available resources."
"We realise this is a concerning time for them and we will do our utmost to make the transition as easy as possible."
KCC Managing Director for Children, Families and Education, Rosalind Turner, said: "The overriding purpose of the restructure is to organise the team in a way that can best meet our priorities and respond to the needs of children and young people in Kent.
"I firmly believe it will leave us best placed to manage the challenges we face and fulfil our commitment to the county’s children and young people."
The reorganisation will see the number of children’s trust boards, introduced in 2006 to co-ordinate services for young children and families cut from 23 to 12.
KCC says that its commitment to spend more money this year strengthening children’s social services in the wake of the Baby P Scandal will not be affected.
Cosultation with staff and unions over the job losses will last three months before final decisions are made.