Essex County Council has denied that there is a link between wedding bookings having to be postponed for months and a restructuring of registrars’ terms of employment.

Essex County Council (ECC), which supplies registrars to non-religious venues, says high demand created by postponed ceremonies due to Covid-19, has meant it has had to stop taking wedding bookings until October at the earliest.

The council stresses that no weddings will be cancelled and all those already booked will be honoured.

The decision coincides with proposals for registrars to become permanent employees of ECC on annualised hours contracts.

The move has been branded as a money saving ploy by one individual close to negotiations, who suggested ECC has been forced to take the decision because they “have no idea how many trained registrars they will still employ in May 2021”.

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The individual, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “Even if ECC U-turn on this restructure, realising the timing is unworkable and postpone it until the autumn, the goodwill of Essex wedding registrars has already been decimated.”

ECC cannot say how much it is expecting to save from the restructure, whether staff will be able to work as registrars for another authority or what will happen to those staff who decline a permanent contract – whether they will ever be offered work with ECC.

The authority says there is no link between the operational decision about bookings being on hold and the current consultation.

An ECC spokesperson said: “The proposals detailed are for the sessional ceremony officers to become permanent employees of ECC on annualised hours contracts.

“We know many of our ceremony officers want this, especially after a year of uncertainty.

“It is important to note that the consultation is still active, no decisions have been made.

“The proposal within the consultation is exactly that, a proposal and is not set in stone.

“The very purpose of a consultation is to gain feedback from our sessional ceremony officers who might be affected and use this feedback to inform a decision.

“As with any contract review, should the proposal within the consultation be agreed, then the sessional ceremony officers will be given the option to accept or decline the permanent contract offered to them.

“The current consultation will not affect weddings already booked. Couples that have existing bookings should not be concerned; all existing bookings will go ahead as planned.

“As we anticipate a higher than average level of demand, as restrictions are lifted in line with the Government roadmap out of lockdown, we are also increasing our capacity with the recruitment of additional temporary ceremony officers.

“We will ensure as many couples as possible can get married this year. Couples are now able to book again for ceremonies taking place from October 2021.

“In addition, we also now have limited last minute spaces available for couples to get married in June 2021, and would urge anyone who may be interested to contact the registration service as soon as possible.

“We will also offer more summer bookings as soon as they become available.”

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