AGENCY workers from as far afield as Shropshire have been brought in to cover staff absence at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.
On Friday, July 16, the authority’s Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee looked at the end of year finance and performance report for 2020/21.
Part of the report looked at staff sickness absences and showed that, during the first two quarters of 2020/21, staff had bettered the targets for average days lost per full time employee.
But they had missed them for the last two quarters.
Some councillors had spoken to constituents about their worries that building projects were being held up due to sickness absences.
Cllr Malcolm Cross said “I’ve had people ring me up regarding absenteeism, at this time of year people really want to get on with their projects.
“They are struggling to get people to inspect the sites to enable them to carry on with work, this is not a one off.
“I hope we are addressing this.”
Cllr Lyn Elias added that a constituent had been waiting for “weeks and weeks” for an inspection.
When the inspection finally did happen, Cllr Elias said that it was done by an agency worker from Shropshire.
Corporate director for regeneration and community services, Richard Crook said: “We do have a particular set of circumstances in building control and planning.
“In building control, we have found ourselves in a position where all four officers are all off for different reasons.
“In order to maintain the service, we’ve got an adjacent council for plan checking, and we have been to an agency to secure building control support.
“We are up to two at present, which will allow the on-site inspections to be taken.”
Mr Crook added that, with some big planning applications on the horizon, consultants would also be brought in to help process planning applications.
Cllr John Hill asked if having a lot of the staff working from home had helped improve absenteeism.
“Are there any trends that show it’s improving?” said Cllr Hill.
Head of organisational development, Andrea Prosser said: “We have had a reduction.”
“Sickness absence has gone down as a result of home working, we’re reviewing the performance over the last year and a report will be coming to overview in September,
She added that the report would take into account the impact covid had on the workforce.
Workers who had been ill from coronavirus or had to self-isolate due to the pandemic, would be separated out from other types of sickness absence.
The financial side of the report showed that Blaenau Gwent ended the year with a surplus of £2.7 million on a budget of £152.1 million.
The report said that “a significant amount of Welsh Government funding compensating for additional costs & lost income,” had been received during the year.
Extra grant funding had also helped the balance sheet.
The report explained that this has seen money put into reserve accounts to “strengthening” the council’s financial resilience.
Cllr Stephen Thomas, said: “We are clearly mindful, Welsh Government with its hardship funding has enabled us to deliver the budget.”
The report was accepted and will be now discussed by the Executive Committee at their meeting on Wednesday, July 21.