Posted: Thu 21st Jul 2022

Independents demand council staff return to workplace four days a week

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jul 21st, 2022

A group of independent councillors in Flintshire have demanded that council staff should return to their workplace for four days a week. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It follows complaints that politicians and residents have struggled to communicate with workers since the Covid pandemic saw some forced to work remotely due to lockdown restrictions. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Flintshire Council said flexible working arrangements have helped it to recruit and retain employees, as well as reducing office costs, mileage claims and carbon emissions. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

However, members of the 25-strong independent opposition group on the local authority have submitted a motion calling for staff who have been working from home to return to the office. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

With Covid restrictions now lifted in Wales, they have also insisted that councillors should attend meetings in person after the council switched to remote meetings during the pandemic. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The motion signed by group leader Bernie Attridge and four of his colleagues states: “We call upon Flintshire County Council to return all employees who have been working from home during the pandemic back to the workplace for a minimum of four days of the working week, including all meetings and committees of the council – let’s lead by example. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Communication has been very difficult for both members of the council and also members of the public. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We must regain better communication. There are no Covid restrictions in place.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The authority is seeking to resist the request, which will be discussed at a meeting next week, after it said remote working had delivered positive changes. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The council first established an agile working policy in 2018 to enable remote working for people in desk-based roles. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

When the Covid pandemic began in 2020, lockdown restrictions made it illegal for anyone who was not a key worker to leave their house or travel. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The council’s chief executive, Neal Cockerton, said most employees involved in areas such as social services, education and bin collections were unable to work remotely. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said only around 15 per cent of its total workforce was asked to work from home. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In a report, he said: “There are a number of benefits that derive from largely hybrid working arrangements, which enable the council to compete in an increasingly difficult jobs market. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Hybrid working also generates monetary, carbon and time savings for the council. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Employees value hybrid working arrangements and, in a highly competitive jobs market, the council needs to be able to retain and attract quality staff. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The council’s ability to recruit and retain staff could be harmed by overly rigid working practices.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He added: “The notice refers to difficulties in being able to contact staff. It is not specific about whether this is all employees or just employees in specific services. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Vacancy rates within the council will affect telephone cover, ease of access and the capacity for employees to return calls.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said there were already measures in place for councillors to escalate communication problems, with hybrid committee meetings also being trialled. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Politicians have been asked to support an alternative recommendation that employees should work from the location that suits their role best and that hybrid working should continue. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The motion will be discussed at a full council meeting being held on Tuesday (July 26, 2022). ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​


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