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North Devon Council want younger recruits

Wednesday, 27 September 2023 10:34

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Image: Pixabay

Half of current workforce are 50+

North Devon District Council is on a mission to make the council an attractive place to work after revealing half its workforce is over 50 and very few people respond to job adverts.

The council is trying to find people with a passion for working in public service as it tries to reduce spending on agency staff.

Some 5.3 per cent of the council’s spend of £17 million on employment costs last year went on agency workers – almost £900,000 – a large portion  on covering for sickness and annual leave for frontline waste and recycling staff. At just over £400,000, the proportionate amount on agency staff has increased signifinantly in the first three months of this financial year:

The council struggles to fill roles in planning, building control and environmental health and housing which is “very disappointing” according to chief executive Ken Miles.

The council’s governance committee was told that there had been one application for a service lead role, one internal application for a senior planning officer and no applications for a planning officer job, despite them being advertised on multiple online sites through the summer.

The jobs were in the £30,000 to £45,000 pay bracket but people could earn more in the private sector, members heard.

Officers  said that whilst it was good to have experienced and loyal workers, it is important to attract young people and graduates who could take advantage of a good career path. In some of the professions, many workers in their mid-to-late fifties had retired.

“Recruitment and retention is the biggest challenge for local authorities at the moment,” said Mr Miles. “We are competing against each other and against the private sector. Planning officers, accountants and solicitors can earn more in the private sector.

“We need to get staff who have that public service ethos, who want to serve their community.”

He said the council had a range of apprenticeship schemes and training to attract people.

Whilst North Devon District Council was an “easy sell” in the past because people wanted to live and work in a beautiful part of the country, the cost of housing and the introduction of hybrid working, where people could still live in North Devon but obtain a higher paid job in the city, was having a big impact.

He said the council would be going to schools, colleges and universities to promote working in local government, as well as using more social media and other channels to advertise posts.

The council is about to advertise 10 position which will reduce its reliance on agency workers.

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