A PRIVATE company appointed to tackle high rates of staff sickness at the council will not start work until the end of September - nearly a year after councillors agreed to take action on the problem.

Cllr Jonny Crawshaw said the delay is “really quite disappointing”.

In 2017 City of York Council lost 23,000 working days to staff sickness, costing the authority about £1 million.

And the council’s executive agreed to spend £180,000 on a dedicated external team to reduce absence rates by a third by April 2021 - with the council saying it wanted to “quickly provide support” for staff.

But a meeting on Monday heard plans to combine the contract with an occupational health provider were not possible so there has been a delay.

Trudy Forster, the council’s head of HR, said: “Attendance continues to be an area of focus for the council for a number of reasons - the overall wellbeing of our staff, which is vitally important, and the impact upon colleagues in the workplace of absence when staff aren’t in work. Also the cost of absence.

“There’s no one root cause of absence. Causes can become very complex.”

The most recent data shows staff absence has decreased slightly - from 11.5 days a year to 11.3 at the end of March. But it remains higher than the public sector average of 8.5 sick days a year.

Last October senior councillors agreed to take action - although plans to pay an external company to tackle high staff absence rates were criticised as “lacking compassion and empathy” by Green councillors.

At the meeting on Monday Cllr Crawshaw said: “One of the key arguments for going to an external provider rather than an internal solution was the speed with which that would be able to be implemented and that seemed to be the kind of deciding factor at the time.

“That was 5 November last year and we’re now looking at September before we’re gonna have anything in place. That is really quite disappointing.”

The committee will get an update on the success of the scheme in six months.