Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hundreds of staff unaccounted for in latest headcount

The number of employees on Scottish Borders Council's payroll in the final quarter of 2014 stood at 5,300, according to official statistics just released by the SNP Government.

But the council has told a Freedom of Information requester it employs 6,421 people. a massive 1,121 more than the official return published on the Holyrood website.

The huge discrepancy is doubly puzzling as there was a similar glaring difference of well over a thousand in the Government and council's headcounts in 2010. It would appear the quarterly totals for 2014, which show a reduction in Borders local government staffing numbers of 200 over the year may require clarification to clear up any confusion.

Public sector employment across Scotland is updated every three months with the latest set of statistics for the period October-December 2014 released only last week. Two separate tables show the headcount of full-time and part-time staff and the so-called Full Time Equivalents (FTE). The figures are rounded up or down to the nearest one hundred.

In SBC's case the number of FTEs is given as 4,300 in the final quarter of last year, 100 less than at the beginning of 2014.

However, in January of this year, around the time when the latest staffing statistics were being assembled, the council received a Freedom of Information request (FOI number 7408) asking how many people were currently employed, and how many of them were receiving above or equal to the living wage of £7.85 per hour.

According to the reply from SBC's Information team: "We currently employ 6,421 people". The response goes on to say that 6,135 of them receive £7.85 or more. It is only fair to assume the information distributed under FOI rules will be accurate.

However, further research revealed an almost identical discrepancy five years ago when the SBC headcount for the final quarter of 2010 was logged on the Scottish Government chart as 5,700. At the same time the FTE figure was 4,600.

Then in another Freedom of Information request (FOI number 3320) lodged with SBC in November 2010 the requester asked: "How many people are employed by the council, by department if possible".

The departmental breakdown contained within the response was as follows: Chief Executive 95; Education 2,936; Planning 101; Resources 918; Social Work 2,223; Technical Services 862. Total employed 7,135 or a whopping 1,435 above the official Government figure.

Perhaps the numbers supplied by the council demonstrate that those official national tables cannot be relied upon and are therefore virtually worthless. Or is it the case that the SBC statistics released in 2010, and again in January of this year are flawed. They certainly cannot both be correct.

As recently as July 2013 council leader David Parker took issue with the FTE figures for his authority - 4,500 - when that number was published by the Scottish Government. He said the actual FTE headcount at the time was 4,395.

Maybe someone can solve the mystery of the extra 1,100 employees who appear to be working for the region's largest employer. Job creation is laudable, but this is ridiculous!

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