Staff sickness at Birmingham City Council has plummeted to a record low.
Britain’s biggest public body – which once had one of the UK’s worst absenteeism records – is now almost as efficient as the private sector.
Council workers took an average of 7.7 days off ill in the year to August, according to new figures.
Ten years ago, the figure exceeded 15 days with staff in social services and housing departments routinely throwing three weeks’ worth of sick days a year.
Workers in the private sector are absent for 6.9 days a year, according to the CBI.
City council human resources cabinet member Alan Rudge, who has been leading a clampdown on malingerers, said the turnaround was “incredible”.
The council has been using sophisticated new computer software which enables up-to-the-minute records on absenteeism to be kept for all of the city’s 55,000 workforce, allowing managers to keep track of employees who regularly claim sickness.
Coun Rudge (Con, Sutton Vesey) said: “I am not going to get too excited, but this is a very encouraging trend.
“It is a considerable improvement, although I must caution that a winter flu outbreak could still push the figure back up.
“What I am doing is encouraging managers to manage absenteeism more effectively.
“They now have the data on sickness and there is no longer any excuse for sitting back and just letting it happen.”
Anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems were by far the most popular reasons for not going to work, with a fifth of council staff staying at home said they were too stressed to turn up.
The impact of spending cuts is beginning to be felt at the council, with almost 2,200 jobs disappearing in the year to August.
The schools’ workforce fell by 1,064, and almost 500 jobs went in adults and children’s social services.
Just under 100 council employees were sacked during the year, for a variety of reasons ranging from poor time-keeping to incompetence.