Headlines: April 13th, 2007



Local authority chief executives and other senior managers have underlined in a new report the link between their ability to recruit and retain good staff and the condition of the local economies in which they work. The report, “The Future Shape of Local Authorities’ Workforces” also concludes that in some parts of the country councils will face real difficulties in recruiting professional staff and may have to turn to recruits from Eastern Europe.

The report was commissioned by the Improvement and Development Agency from Public Management Solutions. The company gathered as much information as possible from chief executives and human resources leaders about how they see their workforces changing over the next three years. The report is based on results from 26 local authorities selected from all nine English regions.

Almost all the councils interviewed believe there will need to be larger efficiency savings as a result of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review and that this will impact on the size and shape of their workforce in future. But the report found the impact of efficiencies was expected to be greater on some types of authorities than others. For example, larger metropolitan areas and core cities see other factors as important to the future size and shape of their workforces. Meanwhile county councils, and especially many district councils, anticipate the need to make savings will push them into further collaboration and shared services with neighbouring authorities or other tiers of local government.

In its conclusions the report says the directly employed local government workforce is likely to reduce gradually over the next three years as support services are re-engineered, outsourced or come under shared arrangements. The areas most likely to be affected are HR, training, ICT, finance and administration, but they will see the retention of a small, better paid and more strategic professional elite.

In parts of the country, the report says, there will be real difficulties in recruiting professional staff across a range of disciplines and authorities may well seek to recruit staff from Eastern Europe and elsewhere, with the appropriate skill sets. The alternative is that they will have to consider effective skill development schemes for existing staff.