A local government workforce crisis is threatening vital local services – particularly relied on by those who urgently need support - with more than nine in 10 councils experiencing staff recruitment and retention difficulties, a new survey reveals.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils across England, has published its 2022 Workforce Survey which it says "lays bare the scale of the issue".
It shows that significant staff shortages in local government risk having a serious impact on councils’ capacity to deliver services. It is also "restricting their ability to help government meet key pledges, such as building more homes, boosting and levelling up economic growth and reforming adult social care".
According to the survey, 45% of councils which run environmental health services were having difficulties recruiting environmental health officers and 43% were having difficulties recruiting building control officers – this comes as councils struggle to fulfil new duties being placed on them, such as implementing the new post-Grenfell building safety system and reviewing the condition of social and private-rented housing.
More than a fifth (22%) are experiencing recruitment difficulties for HGV drivers and it reveals that fast-inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector are an issue for councils and their contractors, putting pressure on gritting and waste and collection services.
Recruitment and retention
Councils are trying to tackle recruitment and retention issues, such as by offering more flexible working, running targeted recruitment campaigns locally and offering accessible training and development opportunities. To develop the pipeline of skills of which are in desperate need, councils are also looking to grow their apprenticeships offer with nearly two-thirds (62%) saying they were going to do this in 2022/23.
However, the LGA said the local government workforce has a diverse range of skills, professions and occupations and the workforce challenges each face are equally complex.
The LGA said one clear barrier is funding pressures faced by local government. It can be difficult for councils to make long-term plans for staffing and development when they continually have single-year funding settlements. It is therefore "crucial that councils have long-term funding settlements so that local services have a long-term, sustainable future and can confidently make plans to develop or recruit the workforce they need".
Councillor James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said: “Working in local government is hugely challenging and varied but equally rewarding. It is a great place to grow your skills and your career.
“Our workforce changes lives for the better every day and help keep communities running. They care for your family, protect children from harm, ensure your favourite takeaway is safe and keep our streets clean."