A Correspondent takes a look at Mark Williams’ “Morale Report”

 From a correspondent.

You just have to dip into the detail of the Staff Morale Report prepared by Mark Williams to see how opinionated and selective it is. It also paints an idealised picture of “time past” completely at variance with all the comments made in the  torrent of recent posts.

First of all he uses the personal pronoun “I” throughout.

 “If I were to compare and contrast where we are with where we were I would summarise that this time last year the following factors were noticeable and important in terms of facilitating high morale and the ability of the organisation to cope with change/additional work:

1. Mutual respect between members and officers

2. A recognition by members that officers would always do their best and work hard with the resources that they were allocated to achieve the best possible results.

3. A sense of pride in the organisation and what it was seeking to achieve for the district.

The latest survey results suggest that these 3 factors are now less noticeable and that they have been replaced by a growing recognition of an inappropriate work environment; a sense of a ‘blame culture’ with officers increasingly fearful of doing their jobs and much less likely to ‘go the extra mile’ for the organisation”

 To support these conclusions he draws on a detailed comparison between a staff morale survey conducted last “summer” 2020 and another one conducted in Jan/Feb 2021 (Appendices 1 and 2 to his report)

Unfortunately these surveys aren’t directly comparable. They are not presented in the same way and clearly didn’t ask the same questions.

But should we really be surprised that staff report more strain and stress in January and February? This strain is quite general in society with people from all walks of life having to deal with homeschooling and Lockdown 3. 

Should we be surprised to find Housing, Streetscene and Planning to be the most stressed? 

Planning has certainly been working hard and effectively in providing excellent comments on the two government “mutant algorithm” consultations, getting out of GESP, preparing for the previously neglected new Local Plan Review and getting the LORP planning application before the planning committee in short order to meet the funding constraints. Pressure on Housing and Streetscene will obviously have increased under Covid.

In the February survey 329 members of staff filled in the questionnaire (67% of total staff) (which included the specific question: “I am subject to bullying at work” which didn’t seem to feature in the summer 2020).

What is interesting is that 327 answered this question and 83% replied never, 11% replied seldom and 6% sometimes. (No specification as to where the bullying might have come from, though in the small print elsewhere it looks like four individuals mention councillors ). This is recorded on page 26 of the reference. If you study  this page you will find that all the other questions get a much more negative response, and these are the sort of questions that concern management generally e.g. “Different groups at work demand things from me that are hard to combine.”

This is also very obvious from an examination of the free text comments on page 36, the vast majority concern management issues.

The past year will have been difficult for EDDC staff. They have had to deal with providing an essential service under Covid restrictions whilst serving a new administration naturally keen to make progress on a  very different set of priorities. As someone commented yesterday, it is Mark Williams’ duty to facilitate this change. In fomenting trouble by ignoring the management problems highlighted by his staff, concentrating instead on unsubstantiated claims of bullying against the cabinet, he is failing the staff he is supposed to support; council taxpayers who pay his salary and to do his duty.

Finally, it is worth drawing the attention of Mark Williams and all Councillors to the seven individuals who commented along the lines: “There is political infighting and Councillors disrespecting other Councillors, which is stressful.”

Covid cases spike in area of East Devon – care home the cause?

Cases of coronavirus have quickly risen in an area of East Devon – primarily in the over 85s.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Infection rates in East Devon rose from a low of 33.5/100,000 – the lowest since the end of September – on Saturday, to 45.8/100,000 on Sunday, when cases dated March 2 were added to the data.

The rise is down to what appears to be an outbreak in a care home in the Sidbury, Offwell and Beer area, with the MSOA area reporting 34 cases in the seven day period between February 24 and March 2 – with 29 of them attributed to March 2.

Infection rates in the oldest age groups also rose at the same time – going from 187/100,000 on Saturday to 562/100,000 on Sunday in the over 90s, and from 118/100,000 to 380/100,000 in the 85-89s, with smaller rises also seen in the 80-84s and 75-79s. In the week up to March 2, there were no positive cases in East Devon for anyone under the age of 14.

Government MSOA map of infection rates for the Sidbury, Offwell and Beer area

Government MSOA map of infection rates for the Sidbury, Offwell and Beer area

As no area other than Sidbury, Offwell and Beer saw a rise in their figures when March 2 specimens were added, the rise in both infection rates and in the age range infection rates are likely linked.

A care home outbreak in the area the most likely explanation for the rise.

A spokesman for Public Health Devon said: “There is currently a rise in new cases in the Sidbury, Offwell and Beer area of East Devon, and the majority of them are linked to a single setting.

“We and Public Health England are working closely with that setting to ensure that all reasonable measures are in place and appropriate action is taken to ensure everyone’s ongoing safety, and to prevent spread of infections. Controls are in place and there is no current evidence of wider community spread.”

However, despite the spike in cases in East Devon, the district’s infection rate is still in the bottom third in England, sitting 207 th of the 315 local authority areas.

Across the rest of Devon, Exeter has the 279 th highest infection rate, Mid Devon 292 nd lowest, Torbay 298 th , Teignbridge 305 th , Torridge 309 th , West Devon 313 th , North Devon 314 th and South Hams 315 th and the lowest in England.

At an upper tier level, only the Isle of Wight and Cornwall have a lowest infection rate than Devon, with the 22.4/100,000 the lowest since the end of September.

In the week leading up to March 2 in Devon, only one person aged 65-69 tested positive for Covid-19, while there were 0 positive cases in the 5-9 age group.