The Committee will receive an overview of staffing 9 months on from the implementation of Buckinghamshire Council.
Katrina Wood, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources
Sarah Murphy-Brookman, Corporate Director for Resources
John McMillan, Service Director for HR & OD
Staffing update paper
Katrina Wood, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources presented an update on staffing and engagement nine months into the Council’s unitary journey and invited comments from the Committee. The Cabinet Member was supported by Sarah Murphy-Brookman, Corporate Director for Resources and John McMillan, Service Director for HR & OD.
Councillor Wood summarised the report which was appended to the agenda pack and reported that the staffing update was broadly positive against a backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, transition to unitary and ongoing service reviews. The following key points were raised by the Committee during discussion:
- A turnover level of 10-15% was considered ‘normal’, the level of 7.6% noted in the report was a result of the ongoing pandemic having decreased the rate of turnover, a trend that had been seen nationally.
- As part of the transition to unitary there had been challenges for staff in getting accustomed with new software and processes. Online training had been initiated and webinars held to support staff. Colleagues from Finance and HR along with employee representatives had formed a small working group to help address issues and review training materials to ensure consistency.
- In relation to the high percentage of mental health absence, the Committee was informed that this was a theme seen across local authorities. Mental health was recognised as a significant issue, however members were informed that one reason the percentage appeared high was due to a significantly reduced number of absences linked to colds and illnesses due to the majority of the workforce working from home. As such, the sickness absence base was not at the level it would be in an ‘ordinary’ year which resulted in absence reasons appearing to have magnified numbers.
- In terms of mental health support available, members heard that the PAM Assist service was available free of charge for all staff and seminars had been held for colleagues in customer service, many of whom were having to handle difficult calls at home. The Council’s intranet contained a health and wellbeing section with a range of sources staff could go to for support, including specific guidance for line managers on how they could support colleagues. The Council has health and wellbeing champions, and the Chief Executive promoted the range of support services through her regular all staff briefings.
- Concerns were raised about safety measures for staff should they be assisting with election duties and it was explained that the Council’s elections team were taking guidance from the Cabinet Office and specific issues would be managed by the Returning Officer and Public Health Team.
- Members were advised that there was a group of officers from Property, IT and HR looking at longer term plans on rationalising office space following the relative success of working from home for so many staff. This longer term accommodation strategy would be brought before members to review and the Committee was keen to have an understanding of how the new ways of working would be designed, what they would deliver and how the long term impact on staff would be managed at the earliest opportunity.
- The Committee discussed concerns that the Better Buckinghamshire Service reviews may have caused staff some anxiety and heard that there was a clear programme for the reviews to commence and staff were being kept informed throughout. The covid pandemic had affected some of the timescales for these reviews but thirteen were already underway and positive results had been seen in the staff survey around managing change. In relation to co-design, the Committee was advised that managers, staff, external partners and service users had been given the opportunity to have input in the way services were delivered.
The Chairman thanked Councillor Wood and senior officers for their report, noting that the contents were very positive under the circumstances staff currently found themselves in.