Headlines: February 25th, 2002

The continuing buoyancy of the labour market is making it increasingly difficult for local government to recruit and retain staff. The problem is more serious in London and the south east because of the high cost of living. In a move to attract staff to the vacant posts and to stem the flow away from town halls, the Society of Personnel Officers in local government has set up a working group to co-ordinate initiatives. The group is chaired by Andreas Ghosh, head of personnel and development at the London Borough of Lewisham.One of the barriers to recruitment is the perception of many would be applicants that local government is bureaucratic, that both staff and councilors are in older age groups and that a town hall is no place for people with initiative and new ideas. This image is reinforced by the Improvement and Development Agency census which shows that the average councilor is 57 and retired and that some councils do not have any councilors under 35. The working group has started a search for ways to attract young people and to change the image.

Recruitment processes will be scrutinized by the group to find better ways of getting the right people into the right jobs in the most cost effective way. Currently only 17% of vacancies are filled by on-line recruitment and
a significant number of councils continue to rely on traditional advertising. Selection techniques will also come under the spotlight and alternatives to ‘interviews’ will be examined.

Retaining staff will receive equal attention to recruitment. The benefits of career progression schemes and succession planning will be publicized and councils will be encouraged to set them up. Work is planned to start soon on a wider workforce plan with a 10-20 year horizon to identify what skills will be required in the future.