HR and councils join up to fight skills crisis

HR managers in local government are taking action to fight skills shortages
that are so severe they threaten services.

The Society of Chief Personnel Officers set up a recruitment and retention
group last week to develop best practice to tackle the crisis.

Keith Handley, president of Socpo and programme change director at Bradford
Metropolitan District Council, said, "It is a crisis situation with local
government having real recruitment problems right across the board, not only in
professional positions but increasing in manual work as well.

"If local government fails to attract and keep good people then it will
not be able to meet its service commitments or modernise its

The local government workforce is aging and it is struggling to attract
younger, well-qualified staff.

More than 30 per cent of its 1.2 million staff are over 50 years of age – 10
per cent higher than the workforce at large – and only 6.5 per cent are under

Francesca Okosi, director of HR at Brent Council, said, "Local
government is facing a time bomb. Its workforce is ageing and at the moment
there is very little in place to attract younger staff and graduates. We have
got to change the perception of public service."

Socpo’s new 15-strong group will develop an action plan on recruitment and
retention over the next few weeks.

The team will work with Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, the
Audit Commission and the Employers Organisation for Local Government to tackle
the skills crisis and improve the employer branding.

By Paul Nelson

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