Booze and drug abuse among council workers ‘could be partly to blame for Islington’s £2million environment overspend’ – crime chief

Cllr Andy Hull speaks at the hate crime meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cllr Andy Hull speaks at the hate crime meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Council workers coming to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol could be partly to blame for a £2million hole in Islington’s budget, the council’s crime chief claimed this week.

Cllr Andy Hull said £1.6m of the environment and regeneration overspend was down to “additional staff costs” – the use of agency staff to cover permanent workers not turning up – as well as an increase in staff numbers generally.

“One reason we are having to bring agency workers into these services is we have found our staff to have been using drugs and alcohol,” Cllr Hull told the performance and scrutiny committee meeting in the town hall on Monday.

“Through drugs testing, we’ve been finding not all street environment workers are coming in sober.”

He said Islington has introduced a random drugs and booze testing system, which could account for more workers beings sent home.

Cllr Hull added: “The overriding driver of the overspend is bin men and women not showing up for work and us having to get in agency staff to cover them.”

He also said staff were not coming to work because of genuine sickness, and admitted the problem was “genuine” and “concerning”.

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Cllr Hull also said Islington Council’s latest staff survey shows some workers are concerned about equality issues, and suggested this consultation should be revisited.

“This department do their work while the rest of us are tucked up warm in bed,” he said. “If that means a microculture has developed within the council, it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

But Cllr Gary Heather (Lab Finsbury Park) pointed out the cost has also been put down to “an increase in permanent staff”.

“Since 2014 there has been a history of [the department] not meeting budget targets,” he said, “so I’m wondering if there is something else under this that we have not mentioned.”

He said the committee should do more to communicate with staff in the department to let them know they are working in a “changing environment”.

But Cllr Osh Gantly (Lab, Highbury East) suggested the absences could be a reflection of “relaxed management”.