FLINTSHIRE Council workers collectively took more than 70,000 days off sick last year, it has emerged.

Human resources chief Helen Stappleton told a scrutiny committee meeting the authority’s 7,000 employees took an average of 10.83 days off sick in 12 months.

Holywell councillor Peter Curtis branded the situation “deplorable” and said controlling sickness levels had been a problem for the council for more than a decade.

He added: “It would not be tolerated in outside industries.

“The council has about 7,000 employees so we’re talking 70,000 days being lost to sickness every year.

“We just can’t function with that kind of sickness level. I’ve been on this council for 15 years and it has always been a bone of contention for us.

“We have always been given excuses; ‘this is bad but the Welsh average is worse’, which never really washed with me at all.”

He added: “These figures have to be reported in the public domain and when people read it in the local Press, it gives them another stick to beat us with.

“How many times do we hear ‘they do nothing up at County Hall’? This sort of thing just reinforces those feelings.”

Mrs Stappleton said the figures for last year showed an improvement of about 10 per cent on the previous year and that work is being done to drastically reduce sickness levels overall.

She said: “I think the reductions we are seeing so far could relate to managers being encouraged to take responsibility for absences within their teams.

“I can’t directly correlate the two things, but I think we are seeing a culture shift at the moment.”

Other committee members, including Shotton councillor Dave Mackie, congratulated Mrs Stappleton and the HR team on their work so far.

He said: “Things are going in the right direction and the areas which need to be looked at are being looked at very closely.

“I know from experience that you can’t change the culture in an organisation overnight.”