Council workers are unproductive, survey shows

19 Aug 10
Local government workers are unproductive and poorly managed, a survey has revealed

By Vivienne Russell

19 August 2010

Local government workers are unproductive and poorly managed, a survey has revealed.

Management consultants KnoxD'Arcy found local government trailing behind the private sector in terms of workforce productivity. On average, local government workers were found to be productive just 32% of the time.

Weak supervision was cited as a significant factor, with the level of ‘active’ management of staff extremely low, averaging just 3% a day.

The local government managers observed by Knox D’Arcy were found to be uncomfortable confronting poor performance and establishing with their staff what good performance meant.

Paul Weekes, principal consultant at Knox D’Arcy said: ‘Changing the management style in councils is going to be vital to improving performance if cuts to frontline services are to be avoided, given the inevitable redundancies over the coming two years.

‘This means a significant cultural change, with a much more active management style needed, combined with better management control systems and more individual accountability for performance.’

Weekes added that by matching private sector utilisation levels, local government could increase its productivity by about a third.

If this were to happen in a county council employing 30,000 people, the same work could be done by approximately 22,000 staff, a staffing reduction of 27%, the consultancy said.

John Ransford, chief executive of the Local GovernmentGroup, pointed out that councils employ 1.1 million people, whereas the survey looked at just 173 local government officers.

 ‘Unlike organisations operating in the private sector, councils have to operate within the constraint of red tap and bureaucracy imposed by central government t and the quango state,’ he said.

But Ransford acknowledged that better management was a crucial part of delivering services that are value for money.

‘We are working with councils on a new National Productivity Programme, which will look at how they can continue to make better use of their staff. This drive for improved efficiency will ensure that new ways of working will be in place as soon as possible so the frontline services on which people depend will not be damaged.’

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