Improving workforce planning

West Midlands councils are working together on an ambitious initiative to tackle skills shortages.

In the West Midlands, we recognise there is both a need and an opportunity to improve workforce planning. With agency workers representing 15 per cent of our workforce (and rising), looking at solutions to improve our temporary resourcing and stabilise our permanent workforce also needs to be a priority. 

Councils in the West Midlands have been working with West Midlands Employers (WME), a not-for-profit membership organisation owned by 32 local authorities, to explore ways to collectively transform how we recruit and manage our temporary workforce. 

The result is WMTemps, a regional agency solution for temporary workers that is linked to a regional workforce strategy that will complement councils’ own strategies.

We know partnership working and collaboration between councils can make a real difference in helping more local people find jobs, and that ‘our people’ are the council.  

From my experience as a council leader and cabinet member responsible for adult and children’s services, I am also acutely aware of our need for good-quality temporary, as well as permanent, staff. So I really welcome the launch of WMTemps to give us greater control over who we employ to deliver services and how we develop and support local people. 

An independent review of the business case for WMTemps said that it represented an opportunity for councils in the West Midlands to work together to tackle challenges that cannot be solved by working individually – including addressing skills shortages, recruiting to hard-to-fill vacancies without driving up costs and creating churn in the labour market, and ensuring temporary workers are well trained, well managed and integrated with the permanent workforce.

Temporary workers remain an important part of our workforce. 

As Rebecca Davis, WME’s Chief Executive says: “While there is need for temporary workers, they are often used to fill permanent roles. 

“We want to ensure temporary workers are only being used where there is a genuine temporary requirement and that there is a sufficient talent pipeline to help fill permanent roles.  

“The integration and relationship between temporary and permanent workers is important to recognise and to have strategies to manage these interdependencies.”

Research shows some temporary workers have had negative experiences through existing resourcing processes. 

Our temporary resource solution is designed to help tackle some of the issues, such as communication, quality control, and making sure individuals are matched to the right roles. 

This should help improve the overall experience of temporary workers, leading to an increase in the number converting to permanent roles.

With recruitment agencies driving up pay rates and everyone fishing in limited talent pools, which increases competition between councils, we are encouraging yet more churn in a difficult market.

Working together, we can create strong recruitment campaigns to attract talent into our sector and stabilise rates of pay so that, as councils, we compete in a wider market and not with each other.

We can also build a stable workforce by employing people – permanent and temporary – who are committed to delivering great service to the community and want to drive positive change.  

All too often, there is a tendency to respond to financial and resourcing pressures with quick fixes and short-run expedients. 

We hope that, by doing something different, we, as local authorities, can coordinate workforce planning in a way that benefits everyone: our councils, our temporary workers, and the communities we serve. 


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