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Hunt is on to fill director roles...
Hunt is on to fill director roles

By Jennifer Sprinks

Services are being put at risk because councils are failing to attract and retain the best staff at senior levels, a study claims.

Children's services, finance, planning and human resources departments are particularly struggling to attract talent, says research from recruitment consultancy Veredus and the Society of Personnel Officers.

Out of 900 public sector employers surveyed, 72% said they were unable to find these specialist staff, and 61% said their organisations did not attract enough management talent.

Veredus director Patrick McHale said local government needed to address shortages and misunderstandings about specialist roles.

He said councils must get rid of their 'dusty image' - for example by making it clear that someone working in the finance department will get involved in work such as business planning and economic development.

The survey also found only 9% of councils carry out succession planning. Veredus managing director Mark Turner said: 'Too much is about getting the job done in the short term rather than training employees for long-term careers.

'Not all retention plans have to be monetary based, but without an objective retention plan, organisations will find it hard to achieve what they want.'

Joanne Ruffle, Southend-on-Sea BC's assistant director for HR, said the council is looking at developing an Essex-wide strategy on recruitment and retention.

'There are key pockets of hard-to-fill posts such as social workers and planners. But this is a national problem because we are not training enough social workers and there are not enough social workers coming out of college.

'Councils do need to do more to retain staff and should work together on issues rather than poaching staff from one another by offering better salaries.'

However one chief executive dismissed the findings.

'I have worked in the private sector, in central government and at both county and district level in local government and I can assure you that the quality of management within local government is high,' said Ashford BC's David Hall.

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