Figures released this week by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) reveal that sickness absence amongst the council’s staff is over 40% higher than the next worst local council in Hertfordshire. Sickness absence levels at Stevenage Homes, which is the “arms length” organization running SBC’s housing stock, is almost as bad, at over 33% higher than the next worst local council in Hertfordshire.

The figures are contained in Appendix B of page 20 of the report for agenda item 4, for SBC’s decision making Executive Committee meeting on 30.6.2010. The Executive Committee now consists of only Labour councillors. The number of full time equivalent (FTE) days lost through sickness absence in 09/10 for those authorities for whom figures are available is:

Council full time equivalent days lost
Broxbourne 6.10 (excludes leavers)
East Hertfordshire 6.47
Three Rivers 7.90
Hertfordshire County Council 8.30 (this figure is for 08/09)
Welwyn Hatfield 8.41
Watford 8.50
North Hertfordshire 8.68
Stevenage Homes 11.60
SBC 12.20

Leader of SBC’s Liberal Democrat group, councillor Robin Parker said:

Sickness absence levels at SBC have been too high for some years and I did raise the issue in the days when I was allowed on the decision making Executive Committee. It is a very good example of the need for some opposition at Stevenage Council. The all-Labour committee are unlikely to publicise their failure to control this issue.

To be fair, SBC are now saying they will begin to take action – but why did they not do so years ago? There is something very wrong here: either Labour have let staff become complacent, or they are working their staff to an extent that they become ill. Either way, it is a waste of council taxpayers’ money.