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Council staffing shortage ‘a significant risk’

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Council staffing shortage ‘a significant risk’

THE failure to attract and employ staff within Dumfries and Galloway Council is now being taken seriously as a significant risk to the local authority.

Council chiefs have warned there are shortages in certain departments and fears about the delivery of services and ultimately the overall council plan.

The issue was high on the agenda at the last audit, risk, and strategy committee, where officials also spoke of “significant reputational damage and an increase in complaints” if a solution to employing the right people is not found.

There are also worries that existing workers could become stressed and demotivated due to staff shortages.

Council officer James McDowall delivered a presentation to councillors on the risks associated with staffing issues.

He told them: “It is about our people, our workforce. They are one of the most important elements of us as an organisation, and hence the reason why it is a strategic risk.”

In his presentation, he stated: “Without the appropriate staff in place, the council will be unable to deliver on the council plan, key priorities and projects.

“The risk may affect the delivery of council services, key projects, increased costs arising from delays and potentially impact on compliance with statutory duties. There could be significant reputational damage.

“There are many external factors which affect the ability of the council to recruit staff including the cost of housing, travel time from centres of population, the relative attractiveness of the region as a place to live, renumeration and a move to more agile working across society.”

Mr McDowall explained the council could potentially miss deadlines for completing important projects, which could result in loss of benefits and cost inflationary rises.

The local authority could also miss out on opportunities to bid for additional funding due to a failure to meet timescales.

North West Dumfries Councillor Andy Ferguson raised concerns about the council potentially failing in its statutory duties, and also highlighted how existing staff may be affected by the workload pressures.

James McDowall acknowledged the “massive commitment from our workforce to do a great job every day”, and said that the pressures they are under is on the radar of management.

Meanwhile, Annandale East and Eskdale Councillor Archie Dryburgh highlighted that the council has an ageing workforce, saying: “Our staff are of an average age where we need to think about succession planning proactively, and it should be two or three years down the line.”

A range of measures are now being taken to try and attract more employees, including relocation packages and incentivisation schemes in some cases to attract people to the region for work.

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