Three-fifths of senior officers have considered quitting their jobs in the last year amid a rising tide of stress in local government’s top management ranks, which is revealed for the first time today by a major LGC survey.
According to the research, undertaken in association with the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, 48% of the 285 respondents believe their workload has increased significantly in the past year to an almost unmanageable level, while more than one in 10 say it is already unmanageable.
Almost three-fifths (59%) say they are currently working more than the 48 hours a week legally permitted by the working time directive. Two-thirds (66%) of chief executives and 57% of senior managers say they worked beyond this level.
Two-thirds of respondents report their job has become more stressful. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three-quarters say they know of a colleague who has experienced mental health issues.
In an interview corresponding with the survey, Solihull MBC chief executive Nick Page reveals he has a mental health condition which has been excerbated in the past by the pressures of his job.
Urging senior officers to “debunk” the myth around mental health conditions, he calls upon local government’s leadership bodies to “galvanise our sector to talk about mental health”.
Writing for LGC, Alace chair Tracey Lee, Plymouth City Council’s chief executive, said growing stress levels of stress were unsurprising when councils were absorbing significant spending cuts.
She questioned whether the “toxic mix” of stress and long working hours was sustainable without significantly impacting on staff wellbeing.
Ms Lee added: “Will it be reflected in future in a higher incidence of senior staff becoming ill, including by suffering mental health issues?”
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers head of policy Piali Das Gupta said financial and operational pressures were adversely affecting staff at all levels, with recruitment becoming more challenging.
“Councils make life-altering choices and life in a senior position is not easy,” she added. “However, colleagues often remark it is ‘the best job in the world’ and the ability to work and influence your local place is tough but also an experience to treasure.”
Of all respondents, 51% said stress and/or workload had led them to sometimes/always perform badly in their job in the past 12 months. Thirty-three per cent of chief executives said this applied to them, compared to 59% of directors and senior managers.