COMMUNITY leaders are demanding answers after figures revealed sickness-related absences among Flintshire Council staff continue to soar.

From October to December last year 18,072 days were lost by staff calling in sick compared to 12,884 in the previous three months.

Deputy council leader Cllr Tony Sharps said he was incredibly disappointed that the figures were getting worse.

He told the Leader: “This is just not acceptable. The figures are higher than most private companies in Flintshire and I’m very unhappy about it.

"At the end of the day it’s the council tax payers who are having to pay for this.”

The absence rate for the period was 6.13 per cent compared to 4.40 per cent in the previous three months.

Helen Stappleton, head of human resources and organisational development, said there was a trend for increased absence rates during that period and that the council had improved by 0.2 per cent when compared to the previous year.

She told members at a meeting yesterday: “For this quarter there has been a rise in absences but I would emphasise that this is an expected trend in terms of absences at this time of year and that can be seen when compared to the same quarter last year.”

Councillors demanded more information from officers on the causes of absenteeism.

Cllr Bernie Attridge said the figures could be severely distorted due to people on long-term sickness.

Miss Stappleton said an attendance management strategy would be introduced in April to teach managers how to improve absence rates.

Cllr Sharps said: “I have asked Helen Stappleton whether this (the rise in absences) is down to weak managers and promises have been made for the training of managers to see if they can improve so we will just have to wait and see if the figures do improve.”

A workshop has also been planned for spring to inform members of the personal details relating to the absences.