Workers at Ribble Valley Borough Council to get extra paid day off at Christmas as a 'thank you'

Employees at Ribble Valley Borough Council are set to have an extra day's holiday on December 24th as a 'thank you' for their hard work and to tackle difficulties surrounding recruiting new staff.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 1:49 pm

The council has lost almost 50% of its bin lorry drivers in the past four months. It has warned that more drivers could leave and some impact to services is possible.

Swimming teachers are also in short supply and councillors are being warned that Ribblesdale Pool may shortly become one of a few in the country where swimming lessons are not offered to children and adults.

Pay is seen as a factor in the loss of various council staff and with difficulties in recruiting new staff across a range of roles. So, all staff are to get a pay rise and an extra day’s holiday in attempt to tackles the problems, it has been announced.

Ribble Valley council leader Stephen Atkinson

In recent months, the issue of Ribble Valley Borough Council staff leaving for better-rewarded jobs at larger councils elsewhere has been raised a number of times at council meetings.

This week’s meeting of the borough’s Community Services Committee to be held tonight (Tuesday, October 19th) will look at the recruitment of bin lorry drivers in particular. Council managers are due to speak at the meeting to councillors.

An agenda for the meeting states: “Currently there is a national shortage of LGV (large goods vehicle) drivers. As a result, there has been an increase to the wages for drivers with a number of companies nationwide. The council refuse collection service has a driver establishment of 13. There are seven residual/ recycling rounds and two paper rounds. At any one time the council encourages two drivers to be on leave to ensure all leave is taken in the year in a controlled manner.

“In the last four months there have been resignations from six of the 13 drivers. The council has advertised and secured four new starter drivers over the same period leaving a deficit of two. We have now been informed that two of the recently started drivers will also be leaving soon. Another driver who has worked for the council for three years is also looking, in earnest, for a new job. His departure is not confirmed at this stage but certainly a possibility.

“This will leave nine drivers at best to complete the nine rounds, not accounting for annual leave or sick leave. We will work with our remaining staff, and the trade unions, if necessary, to agree temporary arrangements to deliver the service during the short period of reduced numbers, but a prolonged shortage of LGV drivers will likely impact on the service.

“Several driver agency companies have been approached for temporary support but with no success. Most of the districts in the country have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by the shortage and some councils have withdrawn some of the services that they previously offered.”

Officer notes in the agenda for the meeting state that the Ribble Valley refuse service will continue but the level of service may be affected. The council has a statutory duty to collect domestic refuse and to offer recycling collections of at least three materials, the notes explain.

The agenda notes add: “This is a nationwide problem affecting most collection authorities and, as such, should not affect the council’s reputation in relative terms. However, any change in theses core services may be very unpopular with residents.”

Regarding swimming teachers, the agenda states: “From the many unsuccessful attempts to recruit swimming teachers (ten over the last five years), it has becoming apparent that our rate of pay is not competitive with other providers, especially for anyone who needs to commute to the pool.

“The daytime use of pool water space is largely allocated to school swimming and the unavailability of lessons will reduce use significantly. Whilst the additional space might please the existing swimmers attending public sessions and the swimming club, overall swimming participation will inevitably fall if young people are unable to learn to swim.

“A primary role for any pool is teaching people to swim. Being unable to do this results in residents becoming increasingly unhappy with the pool, as they are frustrated in having to travel further to access this life skill and perhaps join waiting lists for providers elsewhere. Swimming lessons also make a significant net contribution to the overall income of the pool.

“The challenge the council has faced over the past few years is not unique to Ribble Valley, though several specific factors locally have undoubtedly impacted on the ability and attractiveness to recruit and retain swimming teachers.”

Pay, recruitment and labour market developments were also discussed at the latest meeting of the full council. In that meeting, Conservative Coun Stephen Atkinson, the Leader of the Council, said new businesses, industrial and employment developments elsewhere in Lancashire, but close to the Ribble Valley, such as the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone, will create further competition in the local labour market which could effect the borough council’s recruitment activities.

He said “Ribble Valley people are loyal and probably the most efficient in the area. The council will be looking to raise everyone’s wage. This will help to fill grades, particularly in areas where there are shortages.

“We will also grant an extra day’s holiday to staff on December 24th as a thank you. The terms and conditions will help Ribble Valley Borough Council get back to full staffing, despite national shortages, and hopefully provide a full delivery of work next year. ”