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Brave new world for workers at Birmingham City Council

Brave new world for workers at Birmingham City Council

🕔23.Jan 2014

The future of Birmingham City Council depends on a vastly slimmed-down workforce of multi-skilled “super professionals and brave leaders” willing to work flexibly anywhere within the organisation.

A picture of how the council may look in 2020 has been drawn up for the Employment and HR Committee, with a warning that the current redundancy programme is set to continue for at least four years.

The core non-schools workforce is expected to fall to 7,000 full time equivalent jobs by 2018 as the Government’s austerity programme takes its toll on council budgets.

A decade ago, the core council workforce stood at more than 20,000.

Some 9,000 full and part time jobs and agency or casual positions have disappeared since public spending cuts began to bite in 2010, although some of those leaving the pay roll remain  in work because they have been transferred to new arms-length companies set up to trade with the council.

Equalities and HR Director Mushaq Ally sets out in the report ways in which he expects the 2020 workforce will have to behave differently by adapting to a new local government landscape where councils are increasingly commissioners rather than providers of services.

Old fashioned demarcation disputes will be a thing of the past. Anyone lucky enough to still be in a job will have to be an “agile” worker without inhibitions about working across council directorates, and be “flexible” about shift patterns.

A culture of lengthy meetings will disappear. Rather than talking endlessly about what they are going to do, employees must be totally focused on “outcomes”, according to Dr Ally.

The report states: “The overall view  is  that  the  workforce  will  need  to  have  the  capability  and  capacity  to  work more agilely  with  skills  beyond  core  technical/professional  abilities.

“There  will  still  be  a requirement for an element of deep specialisms and roles in certain key areas e.g. social work, but there will be a need to retain talented professionals with the right mind-sets and to  develop  the  ideas around  ‘super-professionals’  influencing  policy makers.

“This will place a further requirement on managers to lead multiple teams with wider portfolios and a willingness to be flexibly deployed.

“The workforce  environment will  be one where there is a greater flexible hours culture gearing around less meetings and more outcomes, encouraging  brave  leadership  and  innovation  in  a  more  project  driven/pan-sector coordinator and market shaper way.”

The council wage bill continues to fall steadily, down to £345 million compared with £530 million a year ago. Just over 1,600 employees have left in the past year. Of those, 585 were voluntary redundancies, 21 compulsory redundancies, and 477 simply ‘resigned’.

Sickness levels have fallen to an average 10.5 days a year per employee, against 12.2 a year ago.

Almost 20 per cent of those off work blame their absence on anxiety, stress or depression.

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