A council is planning to ‘grow its own’ housing professionals after being left unable to recruit enough trained staff. Bolton Council is to invest £140,000 in creating two apprentice positions to work in housing and environmental health after staff at the authority left due to incentive packages being offered elsewhere in Greater Manchester which include more pay and holidays.
The council said the inability to recruit staff means it is suffering ‘exceptional challenges in meeting statutory enforcement requirements’. They said that hiring agency staff to fill the roles was also proving difficult, with hourly pay rates of more than £50 being quoted for the few available.
The housing standards team at the council, which monitors and enforces the health and safety of homes in the borough are currently operating five positions below the their required number of 12 staff. Vacant positions, which the council are trying to fill, include two environmental health officers , a technical officer, a empty homes co-ordinator and a management support worker.
A report to the cabinet member for adults and housing, said: “Bolton Council’s housing standards team is currently experiencing under staffing of qualified technical and environmental health officer staff. This is presenting exceptional service challenges in meeting statutory enforcement requirements.
“The team is currently several staff under establishment with continuing difficulties with recruitment and retention. Even attracting suitable agency staff has proved extremely challenging, with the few available being offered at £50 per hour or more.
“Despite ongoing attempts, we have been unable to secure agency cover for our administrative post. We did recruit one person, but they left due to finding a higher paid role.”
To help tackle the recruitment crisis, the council has agreed to fund two apprentices over the next three years will need an investment of £140,000.
The report, said: “Although the apprentice roles are not a direct replacement for experienced professional staff and they bring with them a major training commitment, over the longer term they may provide a valuable asset as part of the ‘grow your own’ approach.
Another £40,000 to fund the apprenticeships will come from the Greater Manchester Good Landlord Scheme which aims to improve the private rented sector across the region. The planned start of the apprenticeships is March this year and recruitment is ongoing.