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Regeneration staff hit by council cuts

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As many as 100,000 staff in 131 local authorities have been made redundant since the government revealed a 26 per cent grant funding cut last month, claims the GMB union, with more job losses to come

Jobs at risk include scores of architects and built environment experts working in planning and regeneration departments, seen, according to some, as an easy target by the money savers.

Divisional director of major sites at the London Borough of Newham, Philip Singleton – who joined from Birmingham City Council as part of a crack team of regeneration experts just a year ago – accepted voluntary redundancy this week.

He said cuts to council-backed regeneration and design teams were widespread with the coming years likely to see diminished capacity in those areas.

He explained: ‘Design quality and advice is not statutory and that’s the area that has got to be vulnerable.’

Singleton, who now intends to set up his own specialist consultancy, added: ‘Architects will be in for a more frustrating time, a less productive time and possibly [see] more wasted time because they are not going to have the level of professional conversation they had before.’

Mark Brearley, head of Design for London, warned that ‘badly reshaped places up and down the country’ would result from this ‘skill deficiency’ and feared a ‘long list of local authorities that have no design professionals working in their planning and regeneration teams’

He said: ‘We should increase local authority place-shaping capability, not strip it out.’

Councils’ decreasing capacity in these areas has been compounded by the country’s nine regional development agencies making savings ahead of their planned closure in March 2012.

Yorkshire Forward funded 80 regeneration jobs at Yorkshire and Humber councils, all of which are now at risk.

Terry Hodkingson, former chair of Yorkshire Forward, said: ‘Good design doesn’t cost money but [without these checks] bad design can sneak in.’

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