Northern Ireland

Staff absenteeism worsening for Northern Ireland's 26 councils

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Media captionThe highest absence rate was in Carrickfergus Borough Council

Staff absenteeism is a worsening problem for Northern Ireland's 26 councils, according to the annual report of the local government auditor.

It found that it averaged 12 days per employee, a rise of 15%, after falling for the previous five years.

The highest absence rate of 17 days was in Carrickfergus Borough Council and the lowest was seven days in Cookstown.

Carrickfergus council said it has recently introduced measures to improve the health and well-being of its staff.

'Workforce management'

Between them, Northern Ireland's 26 councils employ 9,700 staff and the statistics in the report relate to the 2012-13 financial year.

Carrickfergus was also one of two authorities which did not have "proper arrangements" in place around governance issues.

The local government auditor, Louise Mason, said it related to procurement and workforce management, but added the council had put in place procedures to address her concerns.

The other council she highlighted over governance in her report was Larne.

Among her concerns was its financial planning.

She also drew attention to a £292,000 fraud involving Belfast City Council in July 2013.

It involved changing the details of bank account held by one of its main contractors, into which the money was paid.

The council recovered most of the loss from its insurers.

A PSNI investigation concluded there was no evidence to suggest that either council or contractor employees were involved.

Responding to the audit report, a spokesperson for Carrickfergus Borough Council said it was "aware of the high levels of sick absence in the year in question but has since put in place a comprehensive package of measures to improve the health and well-being of staff".

"This has proven to be successful and has significantly reduced absenteeism," the statement added.

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