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Staff sickness, bins, recycling…blame council officers, not us say politicians

Staff sickness, bins, recycling…blame council officers, not us say politicians

🕔22.Sep 2015

Senior Labour politicians have attempted to lay the blame for rising levels of staff sickness, a fall in recycling rates and poor communication over the roll out of wheelie bins on council officers.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward made it clear at a cabinet meeting today that “a failure of management” meant focus had been lost on tackling staff absenteeism leading to an increase in sickness levels for the first time since 2012.

The number of average sick days per full-time equivalent employee stands at 10.37 days, which is a slight improvement on the 10.46 days achieved last quarter. However, the year-to-date figure is 1.23 days worse than the figure for this time last year.

Cllr Ward (Lab Shard End) admitted that sickness levels were rising “for the first time on my watch”.

The key to tackling the problem lay in “effective line management”, which was not happening, Cllr Ward stated. He added:

There has been a failure of management in implementing the policy. There is going to be a revised focus.

The Future Council programme will pick up managers’ performance and hold them to account around sickness absence.

I am disappointed the focus has gone off sickness absence. It should never have occurred.

A written cabinet report suggested continuing fallout from implementing the Kerslake Review recommendations and the need to deliver a major change programme meant that officers’ attention to absenteeism had been diverted.

The focus on increasing performance and changing culture has shifted some of the attention away from the proactive management of sickness suggesting that the change in behaviour has not been embedded. There is now a revived focus on holding managing absence panels and conducting long-term absence case reviews.

The impact of uncertainty around jobs and restructuring also has an impact on absence levels. Increased communication and staff engagement with change is essential to reduce anxiety and stress across the workforce.

In a debate on the council business plan measures and performance targets, opposition Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors questioned a claim that 85 per cent of missed bin collections are being made within a three day target. The figures were being “fudged”, Tory group leader Robert Alden claimed.

Concerns were also raised about recycling rates which are 8.5 per cent under target and a mix-up over the days on which customers can put out wheelie bins if collection has been missed.

The amount of household waste which is reused, recycled and composted is running at 30.49 per cent against a target of 39 per cent. Seventeen per cent of municipal waste was sent to landfill during April to June, 5.8 per cent above target.

Deputy Liberal Democrat leader Jon Hunt said a record amount of rubbish was being sent to landfill rather than being recycled. He added:

We were assured the wheelie bin system would increase recycling rates, but recycling figures have failed to move in the past year.

A cabinet report admitted that a controversial switch to impose an annual charge on residents for green waste collections was continuing to have an adverse impact on recycling.

Cabinet member Lisa Trickett blamed council officers for putting measures in place to “restrict people’s ability to report a missed collection during the wheelie bin roll out period”.

Officials had also decided for cost reasons to incinerate rather than recycle wood and this was pushing down recycling figures, Cllr Trickett explained.

She made it clear that management decisions had been taken without her knowledge and it was “unacceptable we still haven’t regularised collections and recycling”.

Across the council as a whole, only 43 per cent of performance targets relating to health and wellbeing, children, young people and families and tackling poverty are on track or better.

Customer satisfaction with the city call centre, now back under council management, has risen but only from 50 per cent to 53 per cent.

Out of 30 key performance indicators for which results were available 52 per cent have either met, exceeded, or, are within acceptable tolerance levels of their target – 12 per cent lower than the same point last year.

According to the cabinet report, 91.6 per cent of routine housing repairs were completed within the required timescale and 84.91 per cent of reported missed collections were collected within three days.

Only 41 per cent of children’s education, care and health plans were issued within 20 weeks, compared to the statutory target of 100 per cent.

On a positive note, the cabinet report also lists a summary of achievements:

  • For the fourth year running Birmingham won ‘Gold’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, for a display of a replica of Birmingham Cathedral’s bell tower display.
  • Birmingham City Council Choir opened up the Local Government Association Conference, in Harrogate in June, and was one of 15 other choirs selected from around the country to take part in the opening night of the Voices Now 2015 event in London.
  • A reported 90,000 people celebrated this year’s Vaisakhi event via two parades through Smethwick and Handsworth in April.
  • Up to 70,000 people attended the Birmingham Pride festival during the May Bank Holiday.
  • Over 8,000 people attended the 70th anniversary of VE day.

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