Falkirk Council staff stressed due to work, survey reveals

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A Falkirk Council staff survey has revealed that 70 per cent of the council’s workforce think work-related stress is a risk to their health.

Most of those who responded blamed heavy workloads caused by changes that have seen the council’s workforce shrink in recent years.

The survey, which 884 people responded to, also showed that two out of three staff did not feel supported by the council’s mental health policies. The survey results were revealed as part of a report looking at the council employees’ health and wellbeing, which promised to train more staff in mental health first aid and encourage workers to get fit and eat healthily.

But they also showed that more than 80 per cent of the workforce aren’t getting enough exercise or eating the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.

The figures were revealed in a report looking at how the council can improve its employees’ health and wellbeing.

It also showed that in the last year nearly 17,000 days were lost in Falkirk Council due to mental wellbeing issues, with nearly 5000 of those work-related.

Although slightly lower than the Scottish average, it’s the equivalent of 18 members of staff being off for a year.

Labour councillor Joan Coombes said she was concerned that the constant staff cuts were in themselves bad for mental health and called for an end to “SNP-led austerity” policies. She said: “We are all aware we’ve been cutting money and cutting staff for however long.

“I think that given the challenges staff must be concerned for their jobs – less funding means fewer staff and the next five years will bring more of the same.

“It’s a case of being fearful you’ll lose your job or being fearful that you keep it and find yourself expected to do the work of your missing colleagues.”

She told members of Falkirk Council’s executive that it was not just a question of numbers, but also of the “de-layering” which had seen middle manager positions targeted for savings.

She added: “From my very simplistic point of view its not sustainable and it’s time to tell Holyrood to cut the cuts and not cut their staff.”

Conservative leader Lynn Munro said:  “This is a very good listening exercise and the challenge going forward is what we actually do to further encourage staff to believe we’re actually doing something.”

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said that many of the suggestions for better work facilities would be helped by the strategic property review which would see dilapidated council facilities replaced.

Councillor David Alexander said it would be a pity if “such a positive report was taken as a negative”.

He said there were many examples of where saving money had actually led to better designed services for staff as well as service users – pointing to home care as one of the services where reorganisation had a positive impact.

“It doesn’t always equate that cuts to a budget means cuts to a service,” he said.

Councillor Alexander also pointed out that “there hasn’t been one single compulsory redundancy!”.

The council is a gold member of the Healthy Working Lives award scheme and the report looked at how to support its workforce effectively.

It’s suggestions included mental health first aid courses for managers and a ban on smoking in the grounds as well as in council buildings.

SNP councillor Gary Bouse said that despite being “a smoker of 20 years”, he  applauded the actions of this report.

He told members: “As a smoker, I completely agree with the ban on smoking in public buildings. IT’s my habit and choice to smoke and it should not be inflicted on others.”