Headlines: July 8th, 2003

Local councils are facing fewer problems in recruiting and retaining ICT staff this year, according to the latest salary survey published by the Society of IT Management. The survey results are based on returns from 140 local authorities – around a third of the total – covering more than 5000 staff working in seven job levels, five job functions and with more than a hundred key skills.The study, carried out by remuneration specialists CEL Ltd, shows that the rate of pay increases for local authority ICT staff has increased slightly compared with 2002. At the same time the number of resignations has fallen, and fewer councils are reporting recruitment problems. This year just over 34% said they were facing difficulties compared with 36% in 2002 and 60% the year before. Retention problems are also down with 25.8% of councils registering them compared with 32% in 2002 and 45% in 2001.

The Socitm salary survey analyses the salaries of all ICT staff in participating authorities. It presents a range of data by type of authority, job type, geographical location, gender, and age, and compares local authority salaries with all industries, using data from CEL’s much larger Computer Staff Salary Survey. That comparison continues to show a large gap between ICT salary levels in local government and those elsewhere. The gap is widest at the most senior levels, where ICT Directors may be paid as much as 40% less than their private sector counterparts. Differentials between directors and the managers below them are also significantly higher in the private sector.

The survey confirms that fringe benefits continue to be an important part of the remuneration offered by local authorities and shows that nine out of ten councils offer flexible working hours, a quarter allow selected staff to work from home, three-quarters offer job sharing and 71% have a structured training and development plan for all staff. The analysis finds that these benefits alongside a wide range of varied work, a reasonably secure job and a good pension, may compensate for salary shortfalls, except at the higher levels.

Andy Roberts, chair of Socitm’s Member Services Group which commissions the annual survey is warning, though, that local authorities must not be complacent about salaries and says the public sector is currently enjoying the benefits of difficult conditions elsewhere. When the economy picks up and competition for skilled staff increases, he says, the private sector will increase salaries, and recruitment and retention problems will worsen again.