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Council savings of £28 million through changes in work practices

The need to engage on social media is listed as one example of where the council has embraced change.
The need to engage on social media is listed as one example of where the council has embraced change.

Perth and Kinross Council has made savings of almost £28 million in just four years – mainly through changes to work practices, it has been revealed.

The figures have been disclosed in a local authority document entitled ‘Building Ambition – A Workforce for the 21st Century,’ which also reveals that the council previously had an “age imbalance” in its workforce.

The paper, written by John Walker, Perth and Kinross Council’s chief operating officer, reveals that the council’s workforce has reduced over the last six years – a 7.4% fall in ‘headcount’ from 2009 to 2014. Mr Walker also states that a ‘workforce management strategy’ was implemented to address financial challenges, and has resulted in savings of £9m in 2011-12, £5.4m in 2012-13, £6.2m in 2013-14 and £7m in 2014-15 – a total figure of £27.6m.

 

Mr Walker’s report states that “people remain at the heart of everything we do,” and he adds that the local authority remains “committed” to ensuring that council staff are fully supported to meet the challenges and opportunities emerging through public service reform.

Mr Walker states: “As a council, we have been preparing for challenges for a long time. Most recently, we reviewed our senior management arrangements in our ‘Building Ambition – a blueprint for a 21st century council’ to strengthen our collective focus.”

His report continues: “We have talented and skilled workforces who demonstrate their passion and commitment to public service on a daily basis. What sets us apart as a council is our on-going commitment to maintaining a collective focus on the connection between leadership, employee engagement and organisational culture, as a means of supporting a shift in the way we work.”

Mr Walker alludes to changing work practices experienced in recent years through the likes of the increased use of social media but also highlights the financial constraints facing councils throughout Scotland.

“The challenges facing our public services are already well documented – population pressures within Perth and Kinross coupled with rising demand for council services, reductions in public services funding, devolution of powers from Westminster to Scotland, far-reaching public service reform, supported by several significant pieces of new legislation, which have a massive influence on how services are delivered and by whom,” his report states.

The document also shows how the council addressed an “age imbalance” within its ranks. A total of 250 modern apprenticeships were offered by March this year and the council has seen a 65% increase in young employees between 2012 and this year.

Mr Walker comments: “Young people are our future leaders. We will continue to nurture talent within our young people so they can have career paths to be part of our future workforce.”

A spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council said the local authority’s ‘workforce management strategy’ is a long-term plan which has been “very successful” in preparing the workforce for the future.

“A range of measures have been put in place to prepare our workforce for the future,” she said.

“Our workforce management strategy is simply a range of measures that are embedded in the council’s day-to-day practice which include how we fill vacancies, reduce sickness absence and equip people for new roles.

“Our approach, like all other Scottish local authorities has included putting arrangements in place for optional voluntary severance.”

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