Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Another day, a different statistic

We're sorry to confuse you, dear reader, but only days after we brought you two conflicting figures concerning the Scottish Borders Council payroll headcount, intelligence has reached us which suggests both of the numbers quoted may be wildly inaccurate or just plain wrong.

You are urged to continue reading this article right to the very end as you're promised a surprising sting in the tail. No peeking now!

But first those confusing statistics on just how many folks are collecting wages at SBC. Those of you with a talent for information retention - we're told a photographic memory is a godsend in these circumstances - might be able to remember there appeared to be a vast difference in staff numbers between the information posted this month on the Scottish Government's website and the response given by the council to a Freedom of Information (FOI) requester.

A table of Scottish local authority employee headcounts included a figure of 5,300 for SBC, rounded up (or down) to the nearest one hundred. This apparently 'official' total, presumably passed to the Holyrood bean counters by the Newtown St Boswells number crunchers, was surely the real deal.

But maybe this particular statistic was not shared with the Information Team handling FOI requests along the corridor or up the stairs from the Staffing Headcount Section. Or perhaps the figures were seasonably adjusted, or failed to take account of those outside having a smoke at the precise moment the count was taken.

Anyhow, the upshot was the FOI staffing question was answered with a figure of 6,421, which is more than 1,100 north of that 'official' calculation. How very odd.

However, yet another total will be added to the mix tomorrow (Thursday) when SBC councillors will be told the local authority's actual (?) staffing level at the end of 2014 was 6,131, down from 6,201 in 2013. In fact the elected members will know that latest in the series of numbers already if they've taken the trouble to read one of the reports at Item 12 (appendix 2) on the agenda for the meeting. It's stuffed full of workforce data.

Among other things, the report says the drop of 70 in staff numbers over the last twelve months is consistent with the reducing workforce trend that has been happening in recent years as the council continues to address the budgetary pressures. So where do the 5,300 and/or 6,421 figures come from?

Some of the other facts displayed in the report are noteworthy, provided they are accurate.More than 72% of council staff are female, and there has been a significant shift in the gender balance among Chief Officers inside a single year. In 2013 56% of the elite were male and 44% female. Now the divide between the sexes stands at over 56% female and 43% male.

The council had 457 job vacancies in 2014 and they attracted 6,522 candidates, an average of 14.3 people chasing each job.

There may be more attention grabbing information for some Borders councillors in a separate report, also at Item 12 under the title Mainstreaming. It is to be hoped they are made aware of the radical if not revolutionary statement on page five which reads: "Elected members are the people voted in by the public. They are in charge of all the services run by the Council."

Told you there was a sting in the tail.

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