To consider the attached report.
Contact Officer: Andy Barton (01296) 585062
The Committee received a report, following on from a request made at the July 2019 meeting, which updated and explained to Members how staff retention, recruitment and the use of agency staff was being managed. This included a breakdown of the financial impacts in different Service areas.
The Council had used agency and temporary staff as a long standing and vital part of its resourcing approach. They were used to address short term and temporary needs, bolster resources in peak times and for particular types of cyclical work (such as annual canvass and events). This ran alongside the use of consultants who were used to bring in additional (normally technical) resource to help with the Council’s normal business. All of these types of temporary resource, were used in a controlled and planned way, and were therefore a normal part of the operation.
In recent years there had been a peak of use of agency and temporary staff linked to the change programme where, in effect, a significant level of agency and temp staff had been used to help with the transition. Over the last few years the Council had been impacted by a number of trends, namely:-
· Effects of a high area of employment – meaning it was harder to attract new talent to the area. There was a low unemployment level in the area which meant there was a smaller available pool of future employees.
· Skills shortages for a number of jobs including planners, IT technical posts and HGV drivers.
· Competitiveness of our salaries, as a planned and possible re-grading of salaries had been halted following the change programme due to the announcement of new unitary Council from 1 April 2020.
The Council had put in place numerous interventions deploying all of the levers available and ranging from golden hellos, growing our own staff, attending recruitment fairs, adding market premia and the use of recruitment consultants.
Further monitoring and controls had been put in place including monthly monitoring, escalation, and ensuring that contracts were competitive and have moved with the current situation. This had a good /fair success rate in the period up until the unitary announcement. Members were informed that the use of agency and temporary staff was reducing and AVDC was filling most vacant posts, thereby avoiding the use of temporary staff. Historic data on the use of agency and consultancy staff was detailed at Annex 1 to the Committee report.
The Committee was informed that the process for appointing agency/temporary staff required sign off by a member of the leadership team prior to any appointment and, in most cases, this had been preceded by at least one cycle of normal recruitment. Due to the unitary vacancy protocol this meant vacancies were initially advertised for 2 weeks across the 5 Bucks Councils, followed by a normal external period if no internal applications had been received. In some pressured roles this was concurrently to avoid any delay.
The Council had contracts in place for our generic agency need, and also a number of individual contracts with specialist suppliers including the groups where there were identified skill shortages in the job market. In some of the hard to fill roles rolling advertisements were also used to ensure the Council did not miss the opportunity of new people entering the employment market.
The leadership reviewed the list of agency staff monthly to ensure that categorisation was correct, that there was global oversight, and to ensure that the senior team was aware of the use of agency staff in their area. This was jointly conducted by Finance and HR, and was in addition to the normal budgetary monitoring including the leadership team and portfolio holders.
Whilst there was a continuing need to use agency staff for the current year, the average spend for the period April-June 2019 was 3% lower than average monthly spend during 2018-19. This profile was similar to that being experienced across all 5 Councils during the transition period to the unitary council.
The Council was anticipating an increase in the use of agency/temporary staff in the transition period to the new Council. AVDC had assessed risks, and one of the highest identified was the loss of key staff, including those in leadership roles and key technical staff. The current position meant that some staff were concerned about their future job security and were choosing to move on. This in turn increased workloads for existing staff, particularly as it was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new staff. The situation was also exacerbated as a growing number of staff had been seconded into the Shadow Authority to undertake work to support the formation of the new Council.
It was explained to Members that there was an offset of staffing costs in terms of savings on vacant posts then being filled (at a premium) by agency/temp staff. However, even when agency staff were in place AVDC would continue to advertise, although the current situation was likely to endure until staffing structures became clear, post vesting day, for the new Council.
The Council was deploying a number of retention approaches to existing staff to reduce the number of staff leaving the organisation. This included retention payments to critical roles, increasing the recognition of efforts (individual and teams), increased communications, learning & training opportunities, wellbeing and health programmes, counter offers (limited) and some changes to recruitment processes. AVDC was also working with the other five Councils to grasp opportunities that cross working might provide.
The Committee was informed that two principle aims for staffing and recruitment were to ensure that AVDC transitioned safely with good services in place to the new Council, whilst also ensuring that those services were as unaffected as possible. It was also important to make sure that transition work was undertaken to ensure the new Council’s offer was as strong as possible.
Members sought additional information and were informed:-
(i) that there was a national shortage of planners that was likely to continue into the future. The new Council would be able to look at how planning resources might be re-allocated with a view to improving the service.
(ii) that the Tier 1-3 positions in the new Buckinghamshire Council (i.e. Chief Executive, Director and Assistant Director equivalents) would be appointed by the end of the year. The vast majority of other Council staff would be TUPE transferred on their current employment terms and conditions over to the new Council. The staffing structures for the new Council, for staff below Tier 3, had not yet been decided.
(iii) with a further explanation of the information at Annex 1 to the Committee report. There had been a reduction in the number of agency and consultancy workers employed over the last 2 years as the new structures resulting from the change programme had been recruited to. However, there had not been an related reduction in associated spend as many of the agency/temp staff currently employed were working in key technical roles which required market premia to be paid.
(iv) that additional information and a breakdown of the reasons for using agency/temp staff could be provided to Members.
That the actions in place for managing agency and temporary staff employed by AVDC, as well as for the retention of existing staff, be noted.