Councils could face a skills shortage in vital areas such as adult care, environmental health and planning unless more council chiefs take a long-term view of workforce planning, a report has warned.
The Tomorrow’s People: Building a local government workforce for the future report, by public spending watchdog the Audit Commission, claimed only one in four English councils had adequate or effective workforce strategies.
Top performing councils were more likely to be those with forward-looking plans for staff recruitment and retention, the report said. But a third of employees were now aged over 50, and councils were have difficulty recruiting young people and some key professionals.
Audit Commission chief executive Steve Bundred said: “All chief executives, leaders and senior management should follow the lead of the best councils and act now to defuse this demographic timebomb.
“There could be serious repercussions for services, and those who rely on them. We know local authorities face many immediate calls on their limited time and resources, but most still need to raise the profile of workforce issues.”
Joan Munro, national adviser at the local government Improvement and Development Agency, said more councils were putting in place workforce planning programmes.
“Many are now joining up to address shared issues locally and regionally. Some are beginning to rethink radically how they are organising adult care provision to cope with the much larger numbers of people needing social care support in the coming years,” she said.
The Audit Commission report also highlighted examples of best practice among local authorities, including a social worker recruitment website set up by Walsall Council that led to fewer vacancies and falling hiring costs.