by DOUGLAS SHEPHERD
A few weeks back Not Just Sheep & Rugby reported on serious discrepancies in the quarterly staffing levels data being supplied to the Scottish Government by Scottish Borders Council.
Readers may recall the number of employees (headcount) on the SBC payroll in the
final quarter of 2014 stood at 5,300, according to official statistics released by the SNP Government. The total of full time equivalents (FTE) stood at 4,300.
But at the same time the council
was telling a Freedom of Information requester it employed 6,421 people. a
massive 1,121 more than the official return published on the Holyrood
It transpired that the Borders head counters and FTE calculators had not been including supply staff on 'as and when' contracts in their returns to the Edinburgh-based national number crunchers.
Now, a new set of "official" statistics for the first three months of 2015 shows the staffing level at Newtown St Boswells increased by 100 to 5,400, and the missing casuals remain excluded from the calculations. The FTE total of 4,400 was also up by 100 on the recorded figure of 4,300 for the fourth quarter of 2014.
Meanwhile the council's response to a Freedom of Information request, which has just been posted on the local authority's website, shows there are no fewer than 663 'casuals' on the books. There is no indication as to the type of work these Territorial Army-type personnel carry out or how many of them are actually working on council business at any given time, but the number equates to 12 per cent of the headcount.
A special note which accompanies the latest published staffing levels for all 32 Scottish local authorities explains: "Scottish Borders Council headcount and FTE figures do not include casual/relief employees who were paid in the reference period.
"This means that these figures under-estimate the headcount and FTE for Scottish Borders Council. This will be resolved for the next PSE (public sector employment) publication on receipt of revised figures for Scottish Borders Council".
The current headcount figure for SBC is exactly the same as the total given for the second quarter of 2002 while the FTE total is identical to the 4,400 level which prevailed throughout 2012. It would appear the casuals have been missing from the statistics for some considerable time.
It also seems the spate of severance packages which have been sanctioned in recent years at a cost running into many millions of pounds is having little impact on the overall numbers on the council's payroll.