Despite “savage” reductions in their budgets, the removal of a wide range of local government services altogether, the privatisation of many operations through the formation of so-called trusts, and tens of millions of pounds spent on severance/redundancy and early retirement packages, staffing levels in many Scottish local authorities are significantly higher than they were fourteen years ago.
Back in 2000 council taxpayers enjoyed a far better standard of service than they do in 2014, yet it appears those services were delivered by a smaller payroll than the current staff numbers. It may be tempting to ask how this has happened as the public sector continues to complain about multiple job losses and is still paying out huge sums supplied by taxpayers to terminate the employment of high earners.
The thousands of employees who have left local government service in Scotland in recent years have only enabled their employers to reduce the bloated staffing levels of 2005/2006. Between the year 2000 and 2006 the number of so-called Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) in the public sector soared from 238,400 to 263,400.
According to the Scottish Government’s latest figures the combined total of FTEs on the books of 28 local authorities (excluding the four city authorities) now stands at 151,600 – 900 higher than the 2000 total of 150,700.
No fewer than 18 councils have more FTEs now than in 2000, eight authorities have reduced their employee numbers while two have reported identical figures for 2000 and 2014.
While councillors and senior officers whine about front line staff being cut to the bone it would appear from the statistics there's a fair layer of fat remaining to be trimmed. It seems logical that employee numbers should be below 2000 levels rather than above them given the decimation of services over the last seven years.
Some of the increases within individual councils are both eye catching and breathtaking. Aberdeenshire's statistics show FTEs up by 2,500, Falkirk 800 higher than in 2000 and Fife by 600. Here in the Borders the local council's FTE count is 100 higher than it was 14 years ago.
The data for the 28 authorities is as follows with statistics for the second quarter of 2014 given first and the equivalent numbers for 2000 in brackets: (figures rounded up or down to the nearest 100)
Aberdeenshire 10,400 (7,900); Angus 4,400 (4,200); Argyll & Bute 3,700 (3,900); Clackmannanshire 2,100 (2,000); Dumfries & Galloway 5,600 (5,400); East Ayrshire 5,100 (4,800); East Dunbartonshire 3,700 (4,000); East Lothian 3,500 (3,400); East Renfrewshire 3,800 (3,100); Eilean Siar 1,600 (1,600); Falkirk 6,400 (5,600); Fife 15,900 (15,300); Highland 8,000 (8,700); Inverclyde 3,500 (3,900); Midlothian 3,600 (3,300); Moray 3,700 (3,200); North Ayrshire 5,500 (5,600); North Lanarkshire 13,000 (13,300); Orkney Islands 1,700 (1,300); Perth & Kinross 4,900 (4,600); Renfrewshire 6,900 (7,200); Scottish Borders 4,400 (4,300); Shetland Islands 2,300 (2,100); South Ayrshire 4,300 (4,800); South Lanarkshire 12,500 (12,400); Stirling 3,500 (3,300); West Dunbartonshire 4,800 (4,800); West Lothian 6,800 (5,700).