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Move to new offices and stress add to problems of Mid Suffolk planners

Endeavour house
Endeavour House

Staff shortages, hitting the efficiency of the planning department for Mid Suffolk, have been exacerbated by the move to the new joint Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils offices in Ipswich. There are currently eight planning officers short.

A report to the Babergh scrutiny committee this week relates to both councils and says:

There are specific recruitment challenges in the Development Management team. 17 people have left in the last 18 months. This was driven by several factors including the move and changes to terms and conditions, retirements and people choosing to move onto promoted or alternate posts. There is also a recognised shortage of Planning Officers across the Suffolk system. We have had 4 or 5 recruitment campaigns in the last 18 months. We have taken on new staff as well as seen some internal progression. We are struggling to recruit, at Grades 5 and 6 with 6 vacancies at Grade 5 and 2 at Grade 6.

The report implies they are currently offering salaries below the market rate, saying: “We are currently considering whether a market forces supplement would assist with recruitment.”

Nearly a quarter of the councils’ staff left in the 13 months to April this year (more than double the previous year’s figure) during which the move to Endeavour House took place. Of the 102 permanent staff who left nearly a quarter cited the move as the reason.

At the same time the councils have been hit by rising numbers of days lost through sickness, with stress, anxiety and depression the leading cause. The number of sickness for this reason rose by 149 per cent to 933 (375 the previous year). Absences for other reasons also rose, by more than 50 per cent.

Requests for counselling increased from 35 to 85.

The report says turnover by departments is not available. It also says staff turnover has returned to the pre-move level.

Th East Anglian Daily Times reported:

Conservative councillor Glen Horn said: “I have been satisfied that we have done everything we can to mitigate the impacts of the move, and we did expect some changes.”

Committee member James Caston, also Conservative, added: “I have got a lot of confidence what is going on is moving in the right direction.

“There are certainly issues with the move that have been very difficult for some people,” but added: “I am confident things are getting better.”

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