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Workforce crisis adding to local service woes - LGA survey

A Local Government workforce crisis is threatening vital local services; particularly relied on by those who urgently need support; with more than 9 in 10 Councils experiencing staff recruitment and retention difficulties, a new survey reveals. The Local Government Association, which represents Councils across England, has recently published its:- '2022 Workforce Survey' which lays bare the scale of the issue. It said 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.

For example, the LGA survey finds that:-

  More than 8 in 10 Councils are having difficulties recruiting children's social workers and 72% are having problems retaining them; Councils are increasingly having to turn to agency staff to plug gaps which is more costly and leave less for children's services overall.

  When it comes to adult social care, 57% of Councils are struggling to retain and 71% struggling to recruit adult social care workers; national adult social care organisations, including:- the LGA, have called for Government to deliver a long term care workforce strategy and tackle the issue of care worker pay.

  58% of Councils are struggling to recruit Planning Officers; this will impact on the ability of Councils to plan and deliver new homes and ensure new housing meets local needs and has the right infrastructure.

  22% are experiencing recruitment difficulties for HGV drivers; 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.

  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.

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 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 1 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.

Cllr 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. Local workforce shortages are adding to the challenges facing our local services. In the coming years, some services are likely to continue to see a significant increase in demand which they will not be able to meet without an increase in the supply of skilled staff. Government investment in the Local Government and its workforce is key to ensure services are protected and also to delivering its own policy agenda."

Local Government workforce crisis; in numbers. There are nearly 1.4 million people who work in around 800 different occupations in Local Government. Between 2009 and 2022 the English Local Government staff headcount fell from:- 2,254,700 to 1,346,400 (full time equivalent (FTE) totals for the same periods falling from:- 1,584,200 to 1,022,000). The Society of Local Authority Chief Executive Officers (Solace) has warned that 33% of Council chief executives and senior managers in England did not have enough skilled staff to run services to an acceptable standard. Skills for Care reported that, in September 2021 the vacancy rate in Local Authority adult social services was 7.1%. England's children's social work vacancy rate rose to 16.7% in 2021, amounting to 6,500 empty posts and the highest rate since 2017.

Public health staff have been left exhausted from the strain of tackling the Pandemic in local communities, with Local Authorities finding it increasingly challenging to recruit and retain staff. The LGA's 2022 Public Health Annual Report, jointly published with the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), found more than 50% say their public health services are running with disruptions as a result of staffing shortages.

Communities across North West receive £350 million levelling up boost

A new University Campus for Blackpool, major regeneration of Preston's parks and the creation of a world class tourist attraction Eden Project North, in Morecambe, are among projects across the North West awarded a share of £2.1 billion from the Government's landmark Levelling Up Fund.

Major UK Government investment will benefit millions of people across the Region by spreading opportunity and breathing new life into historically overlooked areas.

A total of 15 projects in the North West have been allocated more than £350 million from round 2 of the Government's flagship Levelling Up Fund. The projects will create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people's pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

The grants include £50 million to build Eden Project North in Morecambe, which will transform the town's seafront, and £40 million for a new carbon neutral campus in Blackpool, which will place the institution at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence and robotics learning.

There is also £20 million to regenerate Preston's parks, £20 million to restore the historic Haigh Hall in Wigan, £20 million to revitalise Accrington's Town Square and more than £15 million to improve transport, sport and leisure facilities in Halewood.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:- "Through greater investment in local areas, we can grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere. That's why we are backing a number of projects with new transformational funding to level up local communities in the North West. By reaching even more parts of the country than before, we will build a future of optimism and pride in people's lives and the places they call home."

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:- "We are firing the starting gun on more than a hundred transformational projects in every corner of the UK that will revitalise communities that have historically been overlooked, but are bursting with potential. This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride. We are delivering on the people's priorities, levelling up across the UK to ensure that no matter where you are from, you can go as far as your talents will take you."

Projects in the North West awarded Levelling Up Fund grants today include:-

  £50 million to transform Morecambe's seafront into an Eden by the Bay, inspiring a sense of wonder in the natural world and drawing thousands of new visitors to the bustling seaside resort every year.

  A new carbon neutral University Campus in Blackpool, with a £40 million investment, placing the Talbot Gateway at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence and robotics learning

  £20 million will regenerate Preston's parks, providing better green spaces for local people to come together to exercise and socialise.

  Accrington's Town Square will get a new lease of life with £20 million funding to bring several buildings back into use, including the historic Market Hall which will be transformed into a modern food hall.

  Over £15 million to improve transport, sporting and leisure facilities for Halewood as they expand their District Centre and grow the local economy.

  £20 million invested in Blackburn's infrastructure to tackle congestion and give local people more, better options to walk and cycle around the City.

  £20 million to restore Haigh Hall which has stood at the heart of Wigan's history for 900 years.

  A £20 million boost for Earlestown's historic market square to reimagine the derelict Town Hall as a new hub and workspace for the whole community.

  In Trafford, Partington Sports Village will be redeveloped with £18 million funding to provide state-of-the-art facilities for the local community.

  In Copeland £20 million funding will drive industrial development, helping grow emerging industries in the area.

  Almost £10 million will drive improvements along Workington's highways and cycle routes tobetter connect the town to the Port, improving access for local workers.

  Close to £18 million in Cumbria will upgrade 30 km of the highway network and repair 21 bridges which serve communities along the Irish Sea coast, bringing local communities closer together

  Oldham receives a £20 million boost in its ambition to become a top destination for green businesses by creating new spaces for green businesses and a new Learning Centre offering vocational courses to strengthen environmental skills.

  Over £13 million will build new cycle links and walkways in Ellesmere Port and upgrade the market hall with a new children's play area and a Changing Places toilets to enable people with disabilities to live more independent lives in the community

The Government has also confirmed there will be a further round of the Levelling Up Fund, providing more opportunity to level up places across the UK.

The major investment announced today follows the allocation of £1.7 billion to 105 projects from round 1 of the:- Levelling Up Fund, in 2021, taking the total allocated so far from the fund to £3.8 billion. 

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