Council staff sickness falls

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COUNCIL staff have been praised by civic leaders after sickness levels dropped for the fifth successive year.

Hartlepool Borough Council staff have been off sick an average of 8.83 days so far this financial year.

Senior councillors say that represents a big drop from a high of more than 13 days per full-time employee five years ago.

Speaking at a meeting of the full council Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, portfolio holder for performance, praised the 4,500-strong workforce for their efforts, especially at a time when cuts are being made to jobs and services.

He added that the majority of sickness levels is made up of staff on long-term sick.

Hartlepool Council is reducing services and making 86 people redundant this year as it looks to slash £20m from its budget over the next four years.

This year the council has a target of 9.3 days absence per full time employee and the end of year prediction, at the end of the third quarter, reveals the figure is below that at 8.83 per employee.

Coun Brash, who said the figures are broadly in line with neighbouring authorities, added: “In my time as a councillor I have witnessed extraordinary levels of commitment and dedication from the council’s workforce on whom there is an ever increasing workload and ever diminishing resources.

“It is my experience that council employees routinely go the extra mile in trying to provide the best service possible to residents and for that they have my admiration.

“The continuing reduction in absence levels is a real reflection of that commitment and I pay tribute to their immense hard work.”

It is the fifth year in a row that sickness levels have dropped since the 2006-07 financial year, which saw council staff take an average of 13.52 days off sick.

In 2007-08 that figure dropped to 10.57, in 2008-09 it was 9.96 days and last year it was 9.43 days per employee.

The issue was raised by leader of the Labour group Chris Simmons, at a meeting of the full council.

He asked Coun Brash to provide an update on the latest progress made in absence levels.