Higher wages 'would help Powys council recruit and retain staff'

Competing with higher wages in the private sector is always going to be a problem for Powys County Council according to a council chief.

Councillor Karl Lewis raised ongoing problems with missed rubbish and recycling collections
Councillor Karl Lewis raised ongoing problems with missed rubbish and recycling collections

At a meeting of the council’s economy, residents and communities scrutiny community on Monday, councillors were treated to an in-depth presentation on how the council is responding recruitment and retention issues.

The council’s human resource management and development professional lead, Gemma Gabriel, said that more apprenticeships as well as attending jobs fairs up and down the UK would be part of the solution.

Committee chairwoman Councillor Angela Davies said: “It’s clearly a really important area of research and development because without the staff, the council can’t deliver its services.”

Councillor Karl Lewis brought up for discussion the ongoing problems with missed rubbish and recycling collections.

Councillor Lewis said: “I want to know what’s being done for refuse collection staff recruitment.

“I got a lot of heat for missed collections last week.

“When I speak to refuse staff who’ve left, it always comes down to money.”

He asked of there was any flexibility or grading changes possible to increase the wages so that staff would stay.

Head of highways, transport and recycling, Matt Perry said that the number of refuse collection workers was getting back to “normal levels” and there had been extensive work to recruit new staff.

Mr Perry said: “We are competing with the private sector that are paying more and that’s always going to be a challenge.”

He added that to get over the lack of council HGV drivers last year the council had brought in contractors to fill the gaps.

Mr Perry said: “What I’d like to see is a pool (of staff) over and above what we need so if there is any sickness, we can bring people in.”

Councillor Lewis added that after he’d finished an apprenticeship over 20 years ago to become an electrician, he had several companies vying to give him a job.

Councillor Lewis said: “What is Powys going to do once we train people up? The private sector is going to come knocking.

“I think it comes down to the salary we need to be mindful what we’re offering.”

Ms Gabriel explained that this would be answered by a “whole people strategy” where pay is part of the package.

While “pension is a big one”, Mr Gabriel said that the council needed to better explain to staff and potential recruits about the family-friendly policies, absence procedures and paid leave that are all part of overall benefits of working for Powys County Council.

Interim director of corporate services Emma Palmer said: “The reality is if we pay more how do we balance that with the budget we have?

“I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t, but we need to work through that cost benefit analysis.”

Ms Palmer said that the council would need to continue the work of comparing public and private sector salaries.

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