Fife Council’s administration has come under attack for its £10 million cost of sick employees over a 36 week period from April to December 2011.
Labour finance spokesperson, Councillor Mark Hood, accused the SNP/Lib-Dem coalition which runs Fife Council of ‘a lack of leadership’ in addressing such issues and pledged that Labour would make the issue a key priority ‘when back in power’ in the Kingdom.
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Mr Hood issued figures he had obtained which showed that sick pay within Fife Council over 36 weeks for the period from April through to December 20011 had cost the authority over ten million pounds.
He said; “There is clearly a problem and while I am supportive of people being paid when they are unable to work through sickness, the issue here is the level of sickness, and what that is costing, which is taking money and staff away from front-line services. I am now calling for more detailed analysis of the frequency and nature of the absences in order that we can understand what is going on and what needs to be done”.
Mr Hood also explained that the true cost of sickness is much higher as the figures he has obtained relate solely to the wages of those staff who are off sick. However the cost of replacement staff to continue with services and the loss of productivity would he said cost the Council further millions of pounds and it is this area which he is identifying for budget for staff savings.
“I recognise that there will be employees who are on sick leave and need the support of their employer. A good employer does not turn its back on its most valuable asset - its staff -when they are in need and are unable to work through ill health. But the figures that I am releasing today show that there is a much deeper problem at Fife Council, one which the political leadership must understand better and get a grip on.
The Labour finance chief said that in some services, where staff numbers had been reduced through enhanced redundancy packages, this puts staff are under immense pressure. He highlighted the cost of sickness in social work which was over £2.8 million for the 9 month period and said; “We need to know if levels of work pressure is leading to sickness in some of these very stressful jobs and we need to be prepared to take action where necessary to support staff. We must however do what we can to reduce the levels of sickness as the costs are extreme and cannot be allowed to go unchallenged”.
He concluded; “The SNP Lib Dem coalition councillors in Fife are keen enough to take their money, but again and again we see they don’t take responsibility for the big challenges that go with the territory of running a council. Instead they prefer to hide behind officers, cut vital services and hike up charges for the general public. I am clear that Labour in Fife will stop cutting core services and instead cut waste, cut bureaucracy, cut sickness levels and begin to rebuild the council into one that puts people first”.