Cambridgeshire Council staff condemn ‘deeply insulting’ comments about ‘going back to work’

The main entrance to New Shire Hall

UNISON has hit back at a Tory MP’s claim that Cambridgeshire County Council staff have failed to return to the office and should “go back to work.”

Lancashire MP Jake Berry made the comments following a now-deleted Daily Telegraph article suggesting newly built New Shire Hall in Alconbury was practically empty and had just three cars parked outside.

The Rossendale and Darwen MP said: “There is little or no reason whatsoever that people working for Cambridgeshire County Council should not go back to work. We have seen Covid restrictions rolled back across the country and it beggars belief that the only place they haven’t heard about this is in Cambridgeshire.”

UNISON Cambridgeshire County branch secretary Rob Turner said: “Jake Berry’s comments aren’t just factually incorrect, they’re deeply insulting to the thousands of council staff who have kept Cambridgeshire going during the pandemic.

“While the picture he paints of empty offices is fantasy – the building is busy most days – he also ignores the fact that staff don’t need to be chained to their desk at New Shire Hall to be getting on with the job. Indeed for some, that job is going out to visit and support some of Cambridgeshire’s most vulnerable residents.

“While staff were able to work from home during the pandemic, we actually saw productivity increase. It’s meant the public have got better value public services and staff have massively improved their work-life balance by cutting down on lengthy commutes.

“And Covid is still far from over: infection rates are still at some of their highest levels in the last two years, even if most restrictions have ended. It’s right to put staff safety first and limit how much time they’re in the office.

“Hybrid working is also a boon to the council’s green agenda, with fewer journeys slashing emissions across the county.

“We don’t need to ‘go back to work’, we’ve been working day in, day out throughout the pandemic. Jake Berry should go back to his constituents rather than trying to score cheap political points off Cambridgeshire County Council staff.”