A Warrnambool City councillor fears budget cuts and staff shortages will lead to workers becoming stressed and burnt out.
Councillor Ben Blain, who voted against adopting the 2022-23 budget at a special council meeting on Monday night, said it had been "documented quite clearly in the past there was a cultural problem" the council needed to address.
"We currently have over 40 vacant positions," he said. "I believe this shows the effect of the issue. If staff feel valued like they are achieving, they feel secure and they don't leave. What is council doing to address this?
"They have cut the training budget by 20 per cent. The reason cited was because not all the budget was used in the past two years. Look, I believe it could have had something to do with the pandemic and training not being available."
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Cr Blain said the lack of staff affected service outcomes, innovation and efficiency.
"It makes staff stressed, hard for them to do their job and with the extra load taken on, this does lead to burnout and turnover," he said.
"If we can't find staff on the market the obvious solution is to be training from within. Will cutting the training budget have a negative impact on getting new staff? If they don't feel equipped and valued I think we can continue to see this exit and struggle in order to recruit."
He said the council was struggling to find higher level employees.
"We should be looking to train internally to move staff up into the position because there is no staff on the open market," he said.
Mayor Vicki Jellie said in a statement to The Standard the council welcomed Cr Blain's care for staff but assured him Warrnambool's centralisation of training budgets had been done to achieve greater efficiencies and to more effectively use funds.
"Decentralised training budgets have traditionally been an area of under-expenditure, dating back to pre-COVID times. By centralising the training we are able to monitor needs of units and individuals as outlined in their performance plans," she said.
She said staff were encouraged to speak up if they had any issues.
"... there must be an open door for staff to be heard. Our current councillors feel that a positive staff culture is extremely important to ensuring a safe and effective work place, and want staff to feel valued but also to be heard," she said.
She said the council faced similar pressures many workplaces were facing in regards to staffing shortages.
"Scarcity of staff in a number of specialist areas continues to be a challenge," she said.
"However, we understand the impacts of this and have tempered our expectations around the delivery of some projects where staff are simply not available to deliver them. We continue to build on our values program and to evolve appropriate flexible work arrangements to ensure the best mix of outcomes for the community and care of staff.
"Council staff are to be commended for the incredible level of service to the community that has been maintained over the past two years. Council continues to focus on internal development of its people partnership with training providers and recruitment of new talented people where the opportunities arise."
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