SBC in jobs confusion

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Despite Scottish Borders Council shedding 85 posts through severance and redundancy deals over the past three years, the impact on overall staffing levels remains unclear.

In 2012/13, 41 staff were given voluntary severance deals worth £562,376, with the highest-paid receiving £37,000 and the lowest £680.

The following year, a further 17 accepted packages worth £480,000, with the severance payments ranging from £1,844 to £82,569.

In 2014/15, with the council committed to further reducing its workforce “to address budgetary pressures”, eight severance packages, worth £85,671 were approved, including one of £18,344.

Also last year, a further 21 staff received redundancy payments of £302,633, the highest being £38,706.

Just how these departures affect the overall headcount at SBC is, however, shrouded in confusion after the council this week admitted inconsistences and omissions in the statistical information it had issued on staffing levels.

In March, the Scottish Government, on its Public Sector Employment website, stated the headcount figure at SBC was 5,700.

This was at variance with a Freedom of Information response issued by the council in January, when the requester was told there were 6,421 employees on the books.

And last month, a workforce data report to councillors claimed the actual jobs total was 6,131 – a reduction of 70 from the corresponding figure of 6,201 in 2013.

Asked to explain the disparity, a council spokesperson told The Southern this week: “The council received requests for information on staff in relation to full-time equivalents [FTEs] and headcounts.

“On review, it was identified that the different figures provided were due to different specifications within each of the individual requests for information.

“As a result, the council is taking steps to ensure all requests for FTEs and headcounts are provided in a consistent manner.”

With regard to the figure 6,421 given to the FoI requester, the spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, this was incorrect and the requester was made aware and given the correct number – 5,359 – which is a headcount of employees who, on February 3, 2015, held posts with the council with contractual hours.

“The figure of 6,131 [given to councillors] was based on the number of employee records, including casual/relief staff, regardless of whether they have worked or not.”

On the Scottish Government figure of 5,700, the spokesperson admitted this had been due to an “omission” in the council’s quarterly return.

“Individuals employed on a casual/relief contract during the reference period should have been included.

“As a result, the council is currently working with the Scottish Government to review the figures and arrange for amended figures to be produced and published.”