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Dorset Council staff feeling the strain

interview meeting

Published at 8:10am 11th January 2019. (Updated at 8:11am 11th January 2019)

Dorset council staff are facing challenging times – according to the shadow council brief holder with personnel responsibilities.

Cllr Peter Wharf says that not only are some having to do ‘the day job’ – but are also busy preparing for the new council which starts work in April.

He admitted that for many the uncertainty over the future was causing ‘strains and stresses’ while others were looking forward to the new challenge.

'Staff numbers to be reduced'

One of the biggest expected savings to be made by the new Dorset Council will come from reducing staff numbers and, although numbers have yet to be finalised, a consultants report produced almost two years ago put the figure at around 200.

“Any organisation’s value is in its people and out staff are going through a challenging time at the moment. A lot are doing more than just the day job and, in an uncertain world, have strains and stresses,” he told the shadow overview and scrutiny committee meeting in Dorchester.

'Uncertainty'

Bridget Downton, one of the co-chairs of the ‘place’ board, said there was a recognition that this was an uncertain time for a lot of council staff…”but a lot are quite excited about being part of a bigger organisation and the opportunities that might bring,” she said.

Cllr Ray Bryan warned of the danger of over-loading staff during the transition period and said that, in some areas, people were already leaving for other posts in other organisations, rather than face uncertainty.

'Problems with recruiting'

The committee heard that, even before local government change, there had been problems recruiting some positions in the county especially planning officers, building control staff, housing officers, social workers and staff in construction and engineering.

County Hall 2

Social service director Nick Jarman said that recruitment campaigns and ‘grown your own’ policies meant that, unless there was a major change, the new council should start work with the right number of social workers in place for the budget it has.

He said that would also lead to a saving by no longer having to employ so many agency social workers to fill gaps, who he said, typically earned £24,000 a year more than staff social workers. By no longer having to employ 14 agency staff the new council would ‘save’ £480,000.

Mr Jarman warned that lower case loads and making sure Dorset social workers felt valued was often more important than salary alone: “Staffing issues need to be handled with care because all Social Workers need to do is put in an application anywhere in the country and they are almost guaranteed a job,” he said.

“Any period of disruption runs the risk of people, as they can easily do, finding a job somewhere else.”

Cllr Wharf said the new council needed to be a ‘gold standard’ employer so that people wanted to come and work for it.”

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter

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