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Survey finds low morale among Royal Borough council staff

Grace Witherden and Emma Billingham

Survey finds low morale among Royal Borough council staff

A survey completed by staff at the Royal Borough has found serious dissatisfaction among council employees.

The survey, which ran from January to February, reveals concerns staff have with the way the council is run including a high turnover of staff, councillor interference, low morale and increased levels of stress.

In the leadership responses category, more than 80 per cent of the responses were neutral or negative when asked if elected members of the council were visible and approachable.

Members of staff were also asked if they believed in the direction set by senior leadership; 78 per cent of the responses were negative or neutral.

More than 82 per cent of the responses were negative or neutral when staff were asked if they had confidence in the leadership members.

The survey also included comments submitted by members of staff.

When asked  ‘what makes the council a great workplace?’ one employee replied: “A great place to work, don’t make me laugh, the councillors and directors don’t give a s**t about the public, staff or providing a service, all they care about is money.”

Concerns about bullying and the high turnover of staff were commented on by multiple employees.

One worker said: “I’m ashamed to work for my directorate, there’s a blame culture and bullying sometimes takes place.”

Another said: “People are constantly leaving. The turnover of staff is too high, this demonstrates people are unhappy and don’t feel valued.”

When asked what would make the council a better place to work, one worker said: “STOP blame culture. That is of serious concern within the borough at the moment. Workers currently do not feel safe. There is a lot of scapegoating, bullying and blaming which is impacting on our confidence and health.”

However, there were some positive responses with more than 60 per cent saying that their work gave them a sense of personal achievement.

The results of the survey should be taken 'very seriously', according to a member of the Royal Borough's employment panel.

Cllr Paul Brimacombe (Con, Cox Green) said the council 'should take this very seriously and be seen to be taking this very seriously' when the panel met at Maidenhead Town Hall last night.

Terry Baldwin, head of human resources presented the survey to panel members.

He said that he felt that the negative comments and low response levels of just 50.6 per cent may be down to the survey taking place during a time of change at the council.

A draft action plan of how to make improvements going forward was given to members, and they were told another survey to 'get a temperature gauge' will be taken in February 2017 to allow for changes to be implemented and to see if improvements have been made.

Cllr Lilly Evans (Con, Ascot and Cheapside) said that stress levels of staff are an important area to focus on.

She said: "I am surprised that looking at stress is not number one on the action plan. There is a relationship between pressure of workload and stress and whether people are happy in the workplace.

"Frimley Park (NHS Foundation Trust) has a staff satisfaction level of 97 per cent, we have 50 per cent. We have a big gap to close."

Addressing negative comments in the survey, Cllr Lisa Targowska (Con, Belmont) suggested that a regular forum between leaders and staff from all levels should be held to express issues and give feedback.

This was taken on board by managing director Alison Alexander and she said this could be added to the action plan.

Some of the employees' comments:

What makes the council a great workplace?

  • I like the fact that I am given the opportunity to grow and develop and share my thoughts and ideas.
  • Currently morale is not good amongst staff, so it could be said that the council is not a great workplace.
  • Nothing unfortunately. Everyone is too scared to do anything or make a decision just in case it upsets the political leadership.

What would make the council a better place to work?

  • Treat people with more respect
  • Senior department management listening to the issues of their staff, bringing in change that is meaningful and appropriate.
  • For all councillors to support officers' decisions, where those decisions have been made in accordance with adopted policy.
  • Staff should be brave enough to stand up to councillors and offer advice which is listened to.
  • Councillors should make more of an effort with staff.
  • Decent salary


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