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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Seeking Savings in Brent Council Human Resources

Among the savings in the Brent Council budget papers for tomorrow's Executive are some in Human Resources.  I have argued before that this is an area where savings could be made, but I can't say that I have much confidenc3e that the present management are best left to themselves to make them.  Left to themselves they will be, as the elected councillors have no scrutiny mechanism, and the Executive members seem to show no interest.

There are multiple aspects.  The one that has attracted most attention is the finding against the Council for racist bullying.  I want to look at that in a different way.  It is admitted that Brent Council has seen burgeoning use of interim staff.  When I raised this with the councillor supposedly in charge, he assured me that this was all under control, and that it would be limited by not signing off on interim staff.  This seemed to me to rather miss the point.

The point is why does the Council seem to have a demand for interim staff?  Is it a recruitment problem?  That sounds odd given that local government cuts should have created a pool of qualified people looking for jobs.  Why shouldn't these people be filling jobs at Brent Council?  If, as is sometimes suggested, the Council has acquired a reputation where bullying and intimidation are tolerated, that might explain why it is difficult to get people to work for it.  Alternatively, perhaps morale is low for a number of reasons, and this can lead to staff absence.  Bullying and intimidation could be among these.  It may be that a climate of fear has been created.  Alternatively, perhaps previous restructures have been botched, and people are being overworked.  Either, or both, are possible.  One further aspect is the One Oracle project, which should now be providing data on where there are potential savings. 

Whatever the answer, it is difficult to have much confidence in the current management at Human Resources to sort these problems out.  It is a subject crying out for a genuine, independent review.

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