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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 26 February 2007

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Council services ‘improving

LIVERPOOL city council’s services have continued to improve over the last year, according to an independent standards watchdog.  The annual Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) by the Audit Commission, has given the council a 2 star rating, and says services are ‘improving adequately’.

Top marks went to the benefits service, which got the maximum score for the 2nd year running following further improvements in the time taken to process claims. Just 5 years ago it was one of the worst in the country.  Also singled out for praise are services for children and young people, with a record 55.6% of pupils gaining 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE - just 0.4% behind the national average. Work to tackle childhood obesity through free access to leisure centres is described as ‘innovative’.

The inspectors noted improvements in adult social care, with advances in the assessment, delivery and review of care packages highlighted. The Audit Commission also concluded that the modernisation of day services and home care are both progressing well.  Improvements in street cleansing and the environment are also praised, as is the city’s regeneration through major schemes such as the £920 million Liverpool One retail and leisure development and the 10,500 seat arena and convention centre at Kings Dock.

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- “A lot of progress has been made in recent years and this report outlines what we are doing well together with the areas where we need to improve.  I am pleased that the huge efforts we are making in ensuring children get the best possible start in life have been recognised.  There has also been a massive drive to improve the care we provide to older people, and this is now also making a difference to the lives of many vulnerable people.  But there is still an awful lot of work to do, particularly in improving the condition of the housing stock in the city."

The city council’s Chief Executive Colin Hilton said:- “We have come a long way over the last few years and many of our services have changed beyond recognition.  The challenge now is to take our services to the next level and there are a few areas we really need to concentrate on if we are to become a top ranking authority.  We have plans in tackle the major challenges such as housing and the use of resources to improve our services further.”

In housing, a stock transfer ballot is set to take place later this year, releasing £300 million to improve homes if tenants vote in favour.  On recycling, the council is rolling out a new service soon which will enable local people to re-use plastics, glass, paper and cans.  And the council is to improve its use of resources by more effective targeting of spending against priorities and increasing the level of reserves.

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Real, but oh so slow, progress

UNPAID overtime is on the decline in the North West, but progress is so slow that it will take until 2020 before no-one is doing more than 10 hours unpaid extra work every week, according to an analysis of official statistics published by the TUC.  The new research is published on the TUC’s Work Your Proper Hours Day 2007, the day when people who do unpaid overtime would on average get paid if they did all their unpaid work at the start of the year. The TUC is urging people in the North West to take a proper lunch break and leave work on time to remind managers of all the extra unpaid hours they do, and is calling on Britain’s bosses to say thank you for the extra work by taking their staff to lunch or an after-work coffee or cocktail. There are many fun ways of marking the day at,  including the chance to win a special “work your proper hours day” clock for a photo of what people get up to in their lunch breaks.

Those workers who do unpaid overtime in the North West put in on average an extra 6 hours 42 minutes of work a week, according to the Government’s Labour Force Survey. This would add £4,219 to pay packets every year if paid at the average regional hourly wage – and across the North West adds up to almost 2 billion pounds (£1.78 billion).  There has been a small decline in the proportion of the workforce in the North West doing more than 10 hours a week unpaid overtime over the last five years. 81,893 employees currently do unpaid overtime averaging more than 10 hours a week, which is 3% of the workforce – down from 4.1% since 2001. On current trends it will take until 2020 before no-one in the North West regularly does more than 10 hours extra every week – more than an extra day’s work each week. This means that the North West has seen the biggest fall in those doing more than 10 hours a week of unpaid work every week of any of the UK’s nations and regions.

Employees across the UK will have to wait until 2030 on current trends before unpaid overtime of more than 10 hours a week disappears. Nationally 3.4% of the workforce do more than 10 hours overtime every week – down from 4.1% in the last 5 years.

North West TUC Regional Secretary Alan Manning said:- “Work Your Proper Hours Day is a chance to have bit of fun at work tomorrow, but it should also get people asking some serious questions about work/life balance in the North West. The best we can say is that our long hours culture is not getting any worse, and there are some real, but pretty glacial, signs of progress over the last 5 years.  But we should not have to wait until 2020 before there are no longer any workers in the North West regularly doing more than 10 hours extra unpaid work each week. That is a recipe for burn-out and inefficiency. It is working stupid not working smart.

Of course we are not calling for Britain to become a nation of clock-watchers. Most staff are happy to put in some extra time when there’s an emergency or extra pressure of work, but it should not be taken for granted week in, week out. Employers in long hours workplaces should be asking hard questions about their culture, how their work is organised and whether they can repay staff through allowing more flexible working arrangements. That is why the TUC will mark Work Your Proper Hours Day by adding our support to the campaign to change the law to give everyone the right to request flexible working and a better work/life balance.”

To view the regional figures click on here to be directed to the table.

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