Walsall head loses department and job

THE legal department of a district council is to be scrapped and the chief solicitor sacked as part of a controversial restructuring plan.

Sheila Bull, director of legal and administration, is among eight chief officers who have been served notice by Walsall Council in the West Midlands.

Legal work will subsequently be supervised by a "resources" director – one of five appointed to replace the current top management tier.

The abolition of the chief officers' posts is the first step in a complete overhaul designed by the council's Labour leaders to improve democracy.

Their jobs will be advertised nationally later this year, and they will be allowed to reapply. However, the officers are said to be upset and annoyed about the plans.

Bull declined to comment and council leader David Church was unavailable. But Paul Macmanomy, branch secretary for local government union Unison, says the move is being vigorously opposed by council staff.

"We don't agree with the policy and many people will be prepared to take strike action if the policy continues."

The restructure involves creating directly elected "neighbourhood councils" within the district, with work overseen by the five new directors. As well as the resources director, there would be one for education, housing and social services, environmental services and planning, and contracts.

Unison members are voting on strike action. A decision is expected by 14 August.