New neighbourhood council service's slow start blamed on sickness problem

A review of the way staff are recruited for short-term contracts will take place after it emerged a recently appointed official with the task of helping tenants moving into rented homes was out of action for months following a footballing injury.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 10:55 am
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 12:12 pm

Barnsley Council has a network of small ‘area councils’ to cover its neighbourhoods, with each having cash to spend on its own localised needs.

Many operate contracts on a one or two year basis, often employing only one person to fulfil a specific role.

Central Area Council, which is responsible for communities around the town centre, employed a private rented support officer with the objective of making sure tenants moving in were properly settled and less likely to be the subject of future problems.

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That contract began in November last year but councillors were told that “due to significant sick leave” the first monitoring report on progress for the project was not filed until July.

Although the prospects for the success of the role now appear positive, councillors questioned the wisdom employing individuals, rather than the alternative approach of contracting an organisation to provide a service.

Practically, it means that individuals employed enjoy similar terms to council colleagues, with long-term sick pay but if they are not at work there is no facility for anyone else to take over their responsibilities.

Issuing contracts to outside bodies leaves them with responsibility to fulfil the terms of the agreement, however.

Now councillors accept they need to discuss whether to buy in a service or employ individuals in future. Area Council chairman Coun Wayne Johnson said: “It has been flagged up and we need to look at the way forwards.”

Coun Jake Lodge told the Area Council: “It is quite a lot of money and for the last year I don’t think there has been much return on it.”

Members agreed to extend the service for another 12 months.