Slough Borough Council facing ‘skills shortage’ as staff leave

Shay Bottomley
Slough Borough Council aims to home rough sleepers staying in Datchet hotel

Slough Borough Council's offices

Slough Borough Council could be facing a ‘skills shortage’ as employees continue to leave the local authority at an alarming rate.

At an employment & appeals committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), councillors were told more than 300 members of staff had left the council in the 2021/22 financial year.

A total of 156 of the 313 departures were due to voluntary resignations, with a further 109 being offered a redundancy package.

Although the majority of leavers praised the council’s working environment and communications, as many of those who were interviewed on their departure said they would not recommend the council as a place to work as those who did.

Furthermore, the number of agency workers employed by SBC has increased since November 2021, with almost 24 per cent of the workforce in March comprising of agency workers, up from 19 per cent four months prior.

At the meeting, Dipak Mistry, employee relations and policy manager, told councillors that the turnover of staff remained a ‘significant problem’ for the authority.

“Some of the data provided has had an impact around transformation, and some have left as a consequence of the transformation programme,” explained Mr Mistry. 

He added changes to worker behaviour as a result of the pandemic, including increased remote working, meant employees had made lifestyle changes which they sought to retain.

Cllr Dexter Smith (Con, Colnbrook with Poyle), said it appeared employment was ‘moving into a suppliers market situation’.

“You were saying a moment ago that there’s a national increase in the number of vacancies, and therefore that might indeed indicate that people are making the choice to work more as agency staff than as permanent staff,” said Cllr Smith.

“Alternatively, it might simply be that there’s an increasing demand for agency staff.

“One way or another, are we likely to be facing a shortage of staff?

“If we’re focused on the percentage that we’re employing and we would like to reduce that, but the reality is we’re reliant on agency staff to provide services.

“Are you telling us that there might be a shortage of agency staff and then that might be an inhibitor of our operations?”

In response, Mr Mistry said: “There would be a shortage in terms of the type of skills that we want, because people are making different decisions.”

He expanded that different decisions were being made in terms of career aspirations, location and the type of work involved.

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