Council ‘committed to improving absence level’ following audit

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Derry City and Strabane District Council has welcomed the Local Government Auditor’s Report for 2017 in which it has been acknowledged for its Good Governance.

The report, which is an audit and assessment of all 11 councils’ performance improvement responsibilities, is carried out on an annual basis and was brought before members of the Assurance, Audit & Risk Committee on Monday.

Chairperson of the Assurance, Audit & Risk Committee, Councillor Eric McGinley, said he was pleased the council’s Annual Governance Statement was recognised by the Local Government Auditor as a model of best practice in the report.

He said the governance framework has a very clear focus on the organisation’s purpose and outcomes for citizens and for being committed to performing effectively under clearly defined functions and roles.

He said key to the local authority’s Good Governance was its focus on taking well informed decisions in a transparent environment while managing any risks.

Denise McDonnell, Lead Assurance Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, added: “Key to successful good governance is developing the capability and capacity of Council to be effective and fully accountable.

“We are very pleased that Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Annual Governance Statement has been recognised by the Local Government Auditor and we remain committed to ensuring economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of our resources continues to be a priority.”

In relation to efficiency savings and the £2.045m identified as part of its ongoing efficiency programme, the NI Audit Report encouraged councils to continue with their plans to achieve savings and to monitor and report on savings.

Alfie Dallas, Lead Finance Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said the £2.045m achieved in efficiency savings puts the Council in a very strong position moving forward.

He explained: “If we continue with this trend we will see savings of over £51m over a 25 year period, which is well above not only Council targets but also the Council’s contribution towards the target set for NI.

“We are in a very strong and positive position following successful and prudent financial management, careful strategic planning and a commitment to good governance and value for money.”

In relation to absenteeism, while the report made reference to the council’s high level of days lost to sickness, the council assured members that the figures in the report refer to 2015/16 figures and that these numbers have since been reduced by 2.1 days.

Paula Donnelly, Lead Human Resources Officer with the local council, said there has been a very clear emphasis on reducing absenteeism within the organisation through the successful implementation of a new attendance policy and the ongoing development of Council’s BeWell Initiative.

She said: “Managing attendance remains a key ongoing strategic priority for the council and all absences are rigorously managed with management, trade unions and occupational health working in close partnership to facilitate employees returning to work and to ensure that those employees who have been absent from work due to illness are effectively managed.”

Cllr McGinley, welcoming the undertaking to reduce absenteeism, added: “Derry City and Strabane District Council is committed as an organisation to further improving absence levels and delivering ongoing reductions.

“Key to this commitment is the implementation of our full Health & Wellbeing programme to promote fitness and wellbeing across all employees.”