Councils say pay is only solution to staffing crisis

The public sector’s recruitment and retention crisis has prompted all the
political parties to promise ambitious increases in funding.

But the promises have left local government feeling like a poor relation,
and HR professionals in the sector want to see definite increases in pay
scales.

Terry Gorman, assistant chief executive of personnel and corporate services
at Nottinghamshire County Council, said, "We are having difficulties in
recruiting and this will only get worse, especially in competitive areas of the
country such as the South East. Extra pay is needed to attract staff to local
government."

Adrian Pritchard, county officer of personnel at Suffolk County Council,
agrees. He said, "I would like to see real pay negotiations across the
public sector. The Government is involved in teachers’ and doctors’ pay talks,
but local government has to fend for itself."

The sensitive issue of performance-related pay will have to be considered.
"Performance pay has already started with teachers and the NHS, and I
believe it will move over to local government – it is fitting, as there is a
targets culture," said Gorman.

Many do not believe an increase in funding is the only answer. Socpo
president Keith Handley said, "Whichever party is returned to power, we
need more support to provide a better image for local authorities.

"Many authorities are really struggling with recruitment issues, and the
generally poor image of local government being constantly under siege from
central government does not help."

Gorman agrees, saying, "We need to be packaged and promoted better to
attract younger workers. This should be done by government ministers promoting
the hard work that is being done in the public sector, instead of continually
knocking us."

The sector is also keen to see the next government address the issue of a
fixed retirement age to enable the recruitment of experienced staff.

Gorman said, "The retirement age was set when life expectancy was 10
years less than its is now. Pensions should be flexible and allow older people
to work part-time. Changing it would help address the recruitment issue that
local government has now, although I still believe we need to concentrate on
re-branding to attract the younger worker."

By Paul Nelson

Labour’s promise to the public sector

– Increase education spending by more than 5 per cent each year for the next
three years

– Increase health spending by an average of 6 per cent each year for the
next three years

– Increase police spending by an extra £1.6bn a year by 2003

– Use a £400m reward fund for local government in return for signing up to clear
targets to improve local services

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