Recruitment and retention problems across councils have reduced significantly in the past year, although more than half of authorities still experience difficulties, according to a report by the Local Government Association (LGA).
The latest findings from the Local Government Workforce Survey, published this week, show that 52% of councils reported difficulties, compared to 83% last year and 93% in 2004. The report claims problems in recruiting staff in school-crossing patrols, planning and environmental health have all fallen.
The LGA puts the improvement down to a number of factors, including that 71% of councils are now accredited with the quality standard Investors in People, and nine in 10 councils are supporting staff to develop higher-level skills.
Two-thirds of councils (66%) have redesigned jobs to make the best use of scarce skills in the face of current pressures, and 91% have participated in or planned leadership development.
However, although overall recruitment and retention has improved, recruiting social workers has become more difficult, the report found. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of authorities had problems in recruiting children’s social workers, up from 64% in 2008.
Just under half of those with recruitment and retention difficulties reported problems in employing adult care social workers, up from 36% in 2008, and a third found it hard to recruit mental health social workers, a slight rise from 25% in 2008.
Steve Bullock, chairman of the LGA’s HR panel, said: “There has been huge progress in addressing local government’s shared workforce issues. Many of the important occupational skills shortages that have bedevilled local government are reducing, and we are taking action to support authorities in dealing with their difficulties in recruiting social workers.
“The actions authorities are taking are helping to ensure that we are developing the right workforce, with the right skills, to achieve our long-term ambitions.”
The number of councils implementing or considering a total rewards approach – adding components such as learning and development into employees’ benefits package – has dropped to 28%. Of those that have introduced a total rewards approach, the most common features were offering flexible leave or other flexible benefits.
The survey shows the first figures on the number of councils – 32% – using a remuneration committee to oversee the reward package for chief executives and senior staff. The committees are recommended by the LGA Group as a way of improving accountability.
Other measures introduced, which help to tackle unemployment in the area, include:
54% have signed up to their Local Employment Partnership and are placing vacancies with Jobcentre Plus
95% are offering regular work experience schemes with local schools and colleges.
Last month, the Institute for Employment Studies warned retention problems could increase across local government as bosses implemented pay freezes for senior staff, anticipated in light of expected budget cuts next year.