Absence ‘Management’ and Wirral Audit & Risk Committee locates six principles

I’ll start this post with a caveat.  Despite the gloss, the awards, the PR blitz, and the desire to control what goes into the local press and media (largely successful), lest we forget, the same runaway, corrupted,  unaccountable specimens are still infesting Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council at the very top – the business end.

And beyond that, the corrosive link to the MP for Birkenhead (see Wirralgate and Thynne) continues and prevails.

Wirral’s Audit and Risk Committee recently came together on 15th March 2016 to discuss the Annual Governance Statement (trigger warning: 3.3 is preposterous) which had been prepared by the outgoing Strategic Director, Transformation and Resources. Admittedly, you can’t deny that packing up and leaving this place is likely to be strategic, transformational and personally resourceful.


Prime amongst the committee’s considerations was an enclosure to the governance statement, in which this caught our eye:

“Absence Management.  The organisation failed to meet its absence target for 2014/15. The Council must now review its approach to ensure that absence is reported and managed effectively in accordance with Council policies.

“A range of measures are being taken to reinforce the Council’s absence management policy with managers and employees…”

(Managers are employees.  Why draw a false distinction?)

“…This includes strengthening management information and the completion of a mandatory e-learning package on attendance management by all staff. Data provided by North West Employers …”

(NWE ~ providers of the still redacted four years later, investigatively rigourless Martin Smith Report which found the council to be a corporate bully and abuser of power)

“…shows that the Council’s performance in comparison with other authorities has improved in recent years.”

“The Council has implemented a range of measures intended to assist in reducing absence. The sickness absence policy has been revised and a number of changes made to strengthen the response to this issue. Chiefly, this has included amendments to the absence triggers and more timely referrals to occupational health* for stress-related absence.  There has also been extensive awareness-raising for officers and managers. The projected figure for 2015/16 is 11.7 days (after December 2015 figures) compared to a target of 9.75 (the effects of staff transfers to newly-formed local authority companies will be evident in the figures from January 2016.)  A comparison of this to other Councils will follow the year-end.  Officers and managers must comply in full with the Absence Management policy, so as to ensure that the objective of reducing absence levels is achieved.”

*Having been alerted to some atrocious practices, and assuming it hasn’t changed, I personally have serious doubts that Wirral’s (outsourced) Occupational Health organisation is fit for purpose.

(My bold).

So onwards and downwards they go, making ill-conceived adjustments to a proven, broken approach.  Deckchairs and the Titanic come to mind.  I’ll predict here that next year’s figures are going to be far worse (that’s assuming some highly-remunerated, politically-driven PR person doesn’t intercept and doctor them before they’re made public).  

To put the solution in very simple terms…

Buck up.  Try being honest.  Stop treating your employees like shit.

The Wirral landscape is blotted with damaged and broken people, some of them still employed, some not.  The council’s jackboot being ground down still further onto the remaining, struggling, deeply-demoralised employees is NOT a solution.  High levels of stress can’t be reduced by threatening people.

If you’re reading this Eric Robinson, your statutory legal duties as an employer with regard to workplace stress are spelled out here:


Here’s that Section 3.3 …


And here’s part of the Martin Smith report, still horribly redacted (possibly for ever?) by the award-winning, most improved council:

25 03 16 - second section of martin smith report



About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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