Economic Development and Corporate Issues Scrutiny Panel – 14 September 2009
PRESENT: Councillor Smith in the chair.
Councillors Ali, Bainbridge, Barkworth, Berry, Eckhardt and Glover.
The panel met at Pittwood House, Scunthorpe.
110 DECLARATIONS OF PERSONAL OR PERSONAL AND PREJUDICIAL INTERESTS AND DECLARATIONS OF WHIPPING ARRANGEMENTS (IF ANY) – The following member declared a personal interest in the following matter:-
Subject & Nature of Interest
|Councillor M Ali||Licence Holder|
No whip was declared.
111 MINUTES – Resolved – That the minutes of the proceedings of the meeting of the panel held on 20 July 2009 having been printed and circulated amongst the members, be taken as read and correctly recorded and be signed by the chair.
112 PUBLIC SPEAKING – There were no requests received.
113 POLICY REVIEW – RE-VISIT THE REVIEW OF SICKNESS ABSENCE IN NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL DECEMBER 2003. (HOLDING THE EXECUTIVE TO ACCOUNT)
(i) (6) Copy of the Scrutiny Report December 2003 with recommendations – It was noted that none of the current members of this panel had been involved with the original review in December 2003.
The Service Director Legal and Democratic explained the reasons behind the revisit and referred Members to the absence figures quoted within the scrutiny report and how they compared with the figures that had been issued by North Lincolnshire Council’s Human Resources Service for the past year.
Resolved – (a) That the position be noted, and (b) that trade Union representatives be contacted to obtain their views and comments on factors contributing to the current levels of sickness absence.
(ii) (7) Details from the Annual Audit and Inspection Letter March 2009 – The Service Director Legal and Democratic referred members of the panel to the concerns that had been outlined in the above Annual Audit letter, which outlined concerns at an operational level about increasing levels of staff sickness absence. Performance had deteriorated from 9.07 days per person in 2006/07 to 10.24 days in 2007/08 which was close to the figure achieved by the worst performing 25 percent of councils.
The annual audit letter went on to confirm that initiatives had been introduced to manage sickness, however the impact of these had yet to be seen in the performance figures, and that currently North Lincolnshire Council was losing more days, per person, due to sickness absence than most other councils.
Following discussions, it was suggested that NHS North Lincolnshire might be able to advise the panel whether the sickness absence was due to specific ailments and whether they were prevalent to the area. Questions were also raised about whether back to work interviews were being conducted in all cases and whether there was effective use of the Occupational Health team.
Resolved – That the position be noted.
(iii) (8) Update on Sickness to members of North Lincolnshire Council’s Audit Committee 20 April 2009 – Resolved – That the content be noted.
(iv) (9) North Lincolnshire Council’s sickness statistics – Discussions with Jeff Tattersall, Service Director Human Resources – The Chair welcomed Jeff Tattersall to the meeting and invited him to provide an overview of the current situation.
Jeff Tattersall explained that this was the third time he had been in front of scrutiny over this issue, and that it was never an easy issue to resolve. He explained that currently stress and depression were the major factors contributing to the high sickness absence rates, accounting for in excess of 12800 days lost in the last year. Members were advised that the majority of stress cases were not work related, and were often a result of financial difficulties, breakdown of marriages/partnerships and bereavement to name but a few.
The panel was advised that recently there had been a drop in the number of long term sickness absences, however the short term absence rate had increased to a level above the national average, and it was this that was giving greater cause for concern.
A recent investigation had been undertaken by the Council’s Internal Audit service, which had highlighted areas of concern. Jeff Tattersall advised members that details would be made available upon completion of the audit process.
Discussions ensued and answers were given to a variety of issues covering what action was currently being taken, whether there were concerns that particular services were not following the correct sickness monitoring procedures, what preparations were being made for the potential swine flu A(H1N1) epidemic and what training had been provided to line managers and Service Directors to ensure effective monitoring of absence levels.
Resolved – (a) That Jeff Tattersall, Service Director Human Resources be thanked for his attendance at the meeting and his valuable input into the review, and (b) that the position be noted.
114 (10) LEADER OF THE COUNCILS FORWARD PLAN – SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2009 – The Service Director Legal and Democratic circulated the Leader of North Lincolnshire Council’s Forward Plan for September to December 2009.
The plan contained details of all matters and issues likely to be the subject of key decisions for a period of the next four months, updated on a monthly basis.
Resolved – (a) That the Leader of the Council’s Forward Plan for September to December 2009 be noted.