Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Council staff taking lots of sick leave

In my last post I had a pop at the BBC, although I should say it was a very small part of what I wrote. Nice then to congratulate them (well BBC Devon in particular) for using the Freedom of Information Act to find out about sick leave in the County's district councils. This came to light in a discussion on today's early morning programme - in truth it might have been someone else using the FOI Act but the programme flagged up the results anyway.

The upshot of this investigation was that councils, or some in particular, had well above the average levels of absence through sickness. The results for Devon councils showed very marked differences: for instance the real bad boys were 'East Devon' with over 12 days off per year compared with say 'West Devon' with a sickness rate half that. Now such statistics need to come with a health warning - sorry about the pun! - for instance the per person absenteeism might be grossly distorted by a relative few on long term sick e.g. suffering from depression (a very real illness of course). Thinking back to the time I worked in the Civil Service there were certain people that I can only describe as "the usual suspects" who always seemed to be going sick although immediately before and after they appeared in the rudest of health! I have to say I have the good fortune to have so far avoided serious bouts of flu or any other stay at home sickness and toward the end of my time in the CivilService ones attendance record started to be noted on your annual report. During my stay at that office it was policy to move people around on a fairly regular basis so that one was forever answerable to a different supervisor and one of these was someone with a lamentable attendance record, a fact that peeved me when I came in almost without fail.

A quick aside here: when I left the Civil Service the then head boss of the office wrote me a very nice thank you letter for my endeavours and was kind enough to mention my excellent attendance record - that was much appreciated I have to say!

Back to the Radio Devon programme and it seems that the BBC staff lose a minimal number of days through sickness. So good for them! One area though that the BBC, using our money of course, could be much more economical in is that of travel it seems. Thanks to Paul Waugh of 'The Evening Standard', probably the best political blogger from the mainstream media, we know that London Mayor Boris Johnson and his team were in the economy section of the Eurostar train to Brussels when they were passed by John Sweeney and his BBC Panorama camera crew heading for First Class. Boris made a comment to Sweeney about he, Sweeney, making for the front of the train. Covered in embarrassment Sweeney mumbled that he had got a really really good deal in first class. Hm ... Paul finishes his piece by pointing out that another BBC crew is following Boris around today - Michael Crick and Newsnight's separate cameraman and producer! The BBC rightly gets flak for its profligate spending of the license fee. Having said that some of the best TV in the world emanates from it so not all bad.

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