Local authorities told staff policies are flawed

The Audit Commission has warned local authorities “a key piece
of the jigsaw” is missing from their recruitment and retention
strategies, writes Clare Jerrom

Only one in five former public sector workers surveyed by the
commission had received an exit interview or questionnaire.

“If employers are to develop meaningful recruitment and
retention initiatives they cannot afford to miss this key piece of
the information jigsaw,” the report said.

Government action is needed to resolve the key long-term issues
in the demand for and supply of public sector workers, it says. But
effective short and medium term action at a local level is equally

It is vital to look at the changing workforce that is delivering
public services, the reason why people are joining and leaving, and
the local initiatives that are proving successful.

People’s experience of work must match their expectations
and the work environment must engage, enable and support staff to
make a positive difference to service users. Staff should feel
valued, respected and fairly rewarded.

The report acknowledges that demand for public sector staff is
outstripping supply. The age profile of staff in some key
professions shows shortages will increase if effective solutions
are not found. London and the south-east experience the most severe

The Audit Commission research found while some people cited pay
as the primary cause of recruitment and retention problems, others
said it had limited importance compared to other factors. It was
the third most important reason why workers left jobs, and the most
significant factor that could have enticed them to stay.

Bureaucracy, lack of resources and workload were the three main
reasons why people left. The negative image of public sector work
also had an effect on staff.

“I rarely tell people what I do, because of the stigma that goes
with it, you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you
don’t. Social workers can never win,” a former social
services employee told the commission.

Local employers should develop a recruitment and retention
strategy and monitor turnover and job satisfaction. The strongest
driver to the public sector is people’s desire to make a
positive difference to individuals.

Public service union, Unison said the report is ‘a wake-up call’
to government. Unison said the report endorsed its own findings of
a growing crisis with potentially disastrous consequences for key
public services, particularly social care.

“The government must deal with this crisis now by making sure
that there are decent wages and conditions,” Unison deputy general
secretary Keith Sonnet said. “It can no longer take for granted the
goodwill and commitment of the public sector workforce.”

“The national pay strike in local government showed that workers
no longer feel valued or respected,” he said.

‘Recruitment and retention – A public service workforce for the
twenty first century’ is available from 0800 502030.

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