Councils face a 'war for talent'

Local authorities are reporting a “war for talent” and are facing increasing pressure to provide attractive pay and benefit packages to keep staff happy.

Local authorities are reporting a “war for talent” and are facing increasing pressure to provide attractive pay and benefit packages to keep staff happy.

It comes as Conservative-led South Norfolk Council agreed to overhaul its current pay system after it emerged that staff turnover had reached a record high with motivation levels at their lowest for years.

Last night council leader John Fuller blamed the local government reorganisation (LGR) process for making staff feel uncertain about their futures.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new members of staff to the council for the 18 months or so that the government tells us we have left for the local government reorganisation,” he said.

“We either pay competitive rates to make sure our staff deliver our services or stick as we are and watch our staff walk out the door on a Friday afternoon and never return. The LGR has caused a great deal of uncertainty. I have a responsibility as leader of the council to give a commitment to staff that we are going to put them first and part of that is a competitive pay package in comparison with other councils.”

A report to councillors said that in the past six months the authority has failed to recruit seven key posts. “Despite assurances to staff about the LGR process feedback from Unison and the staff forum is that motivation levels are at the lowest for a number of years,” the document says. “Turnover of staff continues to increase particularly in the lower grades with managers reporting a deterioration in quality of applicants.

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“Action needs to be taken now to stem the tide of leavers to ensure South Norfolk Council remains a viable employer in the local region.”

The new pay system, which will see changes to the pay-banding scale, was approved by councillors at the authority's annual meeting on Monday night and will be implemented from June 1.

But the overhaul met with criticism from the Liberal Democrat opposition who said the burden would fall on tax payers' shoulders.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Trevor Lewis said: “The Conservative administration has sprung an extra 3pc pay increase on council tax payers. The full-year cost will be £330,000, plus inflation, every year in perpetuity. In the short term, this may be funded from savings elsewhere, but in the long term, it can only come from the council tax.”

The report to members said that employment opportunities remain high and that South Norfolk Council had fallen behind other local authorities on pay issues.

It is not the first time that a Norfolk council has stepped in to try and ease staff concerns over the local government reorganisation.

In February it emerged that hundreds of workers at Broadland District Council were to receive a “loyalty” bonus for sticking with the authority in the run up to any overhaul.

The appointment in April of Suffolk County Council's chief executive on a £220,000 salary has also proved controversial. Andrea Hill has defended her salary saying: “People will judge me on the results”.