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The government is highlighting research into councillors' working hours to underline the case for reforming local g...
The government is highlighting research into councillors' working hours to underline the case for reforming local government structures.

Survey results published this week by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions found councillors with full-time jobs integrated their work and council duties without over-burdening themselves or their employers.

However, a commentary on the results suggests that reducing the burden on most members would improve the diversity of candidates. It says the increased burden on proposed executive councillors could justify full-time positions.

Managers and professionals were over-represented among councillors. There was also a strong public sector bias to their employment, with 44% drawn from the state sector.

Councillors in full-time employment devoted around 16 hours a week to council duties, with almost three-quarters making up all or some of the time they took off from work. Almost two-thirds used an average of eight days annual leave for council duties.

Although nearly 60% of employers had a formal time-off policy for councillors, this was more likely in the public sector or in larger companies. But 79% were unfamiliar with the Employment Rights Act 1996 which requires employers to give employees 'reasonable' time off for council duties.

Just over 20% of the 977 employers believed employing a councillor was bad for business, usually because of the greater burden on other staff.

Well over half (59%) acknowledged that a councillor on the staff brought benefits to their business - mainly from 'the increased knowledge of local issues and political awareness'.

But the costs of losing an employee to council duties caused problems for 28% of staff, while increased pressures on other staff were mentioned by 42%.

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