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A NEW policy aiming to promote more home working among council employees has been approved in Blaenau Gwent, despite concerns that it could encourage people living outside of the borough to take up jobs.

The new working arrangements follow a decision by the council to vacate the civic centre in Ebbw Vale in favour of a new ‘democratic hub’ at the General Offices, community hubs and more home working.

The agile working policy sets out that roles will be designated into three workstyles defined as a homeworker, agile worker and service/community worker.

An assessment shows there are currently 369 permanent council staff defined as working from home, 386 agile workers and 958 community workers.

A report says the new policy should improve employee wellbeing and performance, boost recruitment and retention of staff, and reduce absences after a survey of staff showed support to continue working in a more flexible way.

But at a full council meeting, concerns were raised the policy could result in more staff from outside the borough being employed and that it was being “rushed through”.

Cllr Stephen Thomas, the council’s Labour group leader, said he wanted to see “Blaenau Gwent jobs for Blaenau Gwent people”.

“I have got grave concerns considering this is such a massive change to the way we work,” he said.

Cllr John Morgan said conditions of employment for some jobs should have a requirement to live close to the borough.

“My concern is that we will have people working for the council who will not properly understand Blaenau Gwent and its needs, its problems and its soul.

“They could be living in Birmingham, Bristol or Conwy.”

But Bernadette Elias, the council’s head of governance and partnerships, said that people’s understanding of the borough would be assessed during recruitment and appointment processes.

Cllr Phil Edwards, Minority Independent Group leader, claimed that council officers living outside the borough would benefit from the policy.

“If it was members defending this proposal so vigorously as officers we would have to declare an interest,” he said.

But council leader, Cllr Nigel Daniels, said the policy will make the authority “a stronger organisation” with “greater appeal”, improving wellbeing and assisting in decarbonisation.

“I personally think this is something that is going to be welcomed across the board by the majority of our workforce,” he said.

An amendment backed by the Labour group to defer the decision was defeated, before the new policy was approved by a majority vote.

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