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Local government struggles to find funds for training, says survey


Many local government authorities are struggling to find the funds for staff training, according to a survey by local government union UNISON.

The union spoke to union representatives from 35 union branches in England and Wales for its survey, 'Local Government Workforce Training and Development : Survey of Good Practice', and found that although 75% of authorities were working towards Investors in People, 51% said their council's efforts were hampered by a lack of resources.

The survey revealed a number of initiatives in place - 54% of authorities surveyed had specific measures in place to address the training needs of lower paid, 'front line' employees. UNISON itself has been working on 'Return to Learn' schemes, which help to promote training opportunities for this group of staff. However, only 47% of authorities were completing annual development plans and only 56% were monitoring workplace training and development.

Kate Foley, UNISON National Officer, stressed the need for more funds to be devoted to training: "Even in those authorities working towards Investors in People, resources remain a barrier to progress. It is understood and accepted in the private sector that if you want to make successful changes, you have to invest, particularly in the workforce. We know that the public want well funded, efficient and responsive local services, but effective change can only be achieved with clear, simple goals, a willingness to listen to the staff at the sharp end and a
commitment to provide the resources and training to do the job properly. More work is needed to make annual training and development plans for all staff standard practice across local government."

The survey quotes a number of examples of best practice in training and development within local authorities. Paid time and cover is an important factor - for example, school meals staff in Sunderland received overtime for training outside working hours. Kate Foley added: "It is good to see that some councils have a very clear policy of training for personal development. One branch surveyed highlighted the case of a cleaner who is currently on a computer WP course, financed by the authority and others offer 'early bird' talks and courses on customer care and council knowledge. All these initiatives serve to develop skills, improve morale and create a better motivated workforce."


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