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Sick leave complacency

PUBLISHED: 16:35 09 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:21 03 July 2010

IT is hardly surprising to discover that Norfolk Constabulary is failing to significantly reduce its sick leave list in view of the fact that over the past 20 years it has complacently been coasting along at about 10 days per officer per annum without attracting any serious criticism until now.

IT is hardly surprising to discover that Norfolk Constabulary is failing to significantly reduce its sick leave list in view of the fact that over the past 20 years it has complacently been coasting along at about 10 days per officer per annum without attracting any serious criticism until now. And this is despite the fact that Norfolk has been identified as the safest county in the country and that all police officers are obliged to pass a stringent physical examination before being recruited.

By contrast in London, one of the most crime-ridden areas of the country, the Metropolitan Police have, over the same period, slashed sick leave from 15 days per officer pa to about seven and is well on the way to achieving by 2010 the government target of five days.

In the early 1980s when I was a supervising officer in the Met, the government in its wisdom decided it would be a good idea to save the time of doctors by allowing employees to extend from three days to seven, the length of time that they could self-certificate unfit for work. I predicted this would lead to an escalation in absenteeism, especially in the public service which is notorious for taking the sick leave facility as some kind of entitlement akin to annual leave.

In fact one of my PCs said: “It's only human nature isn't it? If they offer you seven days rather than three you must take it.”

In anticipation of an upsurge in absenteeism I suggested to Scotland Yard a four point plan which could concentrate minds on stemming this expensive drain on resources.

(a) Annual appraisals should make some comment on the officer's attendance record for the year.

(b)Sickness records of candidates should be taken into consideration by promotion selection boards.

(c)Police divisions and shifts within divisions should have their sickness rates compared.

(d) Annual Police Reports should show sickness trends in straight line graphical form.

As far as I know suggestion (b) was the only one adopted and that was in 1998, 10 years after I proposed it.

Had the idea of straight line graphs been introduced the Norfolk version would take the form of an horizontal line whereas the Met's would show a steep plunge from 1998 onwards.

As the economic slump begins to bite and workers in commerce and industry who generate the wealth to pay the taxes which fund the Public Services take pay cuts to survive it is unacceptable to see such complacency regarding the apparent abuse of sick leave in our local Police Service.

JOHN KENNY,

Habgood Close,

Acle

AS the new harbour takes shape I think it is about time a few questions were answered by the all-singing, all-dancing EastPort. Why are EastPort getting rid of highly skilled men? These men have forgotten more about the loading/unloading of ships than EastPort will ever know. When all the casuals turn up to discharge a ship, I take it that they will have the relevant qualifications and certificates to do the job?

R GOFFIN

email

IN the early hours of June 30 we were burgled while asleep in bed. The thief gained access through a skylight window at the front of our house at approximately 3am. He took various items, cash and our car.

The response from the police following the event was quick and efficient, a response team arrived within half an hour. We subsequently had visits from crime scene investigators, a crime reduction officer, CID and a call from victim support.

All this was very encouraging, however, we have since discovered there have been other such burglaries in our road, as many as nine and also several others in the surrounding areas. Surely if the manpower was directed at being proactive rather than reactive the perpetrators would have been caught?

Why were WE not informed of this crime spree in our area? Why are the police not setting up surveillance in the locality? Also a simple leaflet drop could have saved us a great deal of upset and inconvenience.

As the police do not seem to be providing information, I would like to suggest some simple advice to all your readers: Ensure all downstairs windows, even small skylights, are firmly closed and locked if possible; Take all keys out of the exterior doors and hide them or take them upstairs with you; Hide all vehicle keys

Finally to the thief who has our car, TV, laptop and other items, I look forward to seeing you in court.

MRS JACKIE CUTCHEY

Victoria Road

Gorleston

A RESTAURANT owner took my toddler's halfway eaten lunch away from her because of a disagreement with myself over the order.

We were on a day trip to Great Yarmouth and called in on a restaurant, ordering cheeseburgers and chips, with a tuna sandwhich for my 21-month-old daughter. When the order came through they were plain burgers, so I did as anyone would and went to the counter and explained the mix up. I was told I should think more carefully before ordering. She eventually agreed to add the cheese for an extra cost, to which I asked how much. I even apologised for any misunderstanding. As she was looking up the price, and as I was feeling very frustrated, I mouthed/whispered to my partner “This is ridiculous”, at which point she stopped looking up the price, took the food away and told us she would take our drinks away and give us the money back.

I would have been fine with that had I not had my daughter with me, as the owner then walked up to where my daughter was sitting, and without saying a word took her plate. It left her in tears. I can't believe people still get away with such bad customer service, surely it would have been easier for her to just offer the cheese to be added (even if it meant I had to pay 40p extra I would be okay with it) and even if she thought she was in the right, not stand there arguing.

I'm sending this story to you eight hours after it happened and I'm still angry that anyone, can treat customers like that.

SIAN FAIRNEY

Bittern Close,

Desborough

WE were feeding the ducks on the Waterways in Great Yarmouth last week when this heron landed beside me. It then started to watch where the bread went then suddenly dived in. It eventualy dived three times catching two fish. I have been told it catches ducklings as well.

LYNN & MARTIN HEWETT

Scratby

SOMEONE needs to speak up for police officers and it might as well be me. I read with shocking dismay, about Norfolk Constabulary's measures to curb sickness on the force, such as visits to the sick person's home, within 24 hours of reporting sick.

I have never been a police constable, or have one as family, but have worked side by side with them and witnessed the bravery, professionalism and quick decision making that officers make, so many times a day.

Police officers routinely deal with the worse that society has to offer and a criminal justice system that many a time, offers more protection to offenders, then victims or officers.

On top of this, officers are taught to be strong and handle any situation that is thrown at them, no matter what. Don't complain, just do the job!

But the truth is police officers are only humans like you and me! Another fact is that police constables like any other emergency personnel are prone to stress related illnesses such as anxiety, depression, blood pressure problems, IBS, heart attacks, etc. This is because every time an officer responds to an emergency the body gets ready in a way known to scientists as the “fight or flight” response, including the release of adrenaline, cessation of digestive functions and drainage of the blood to the muscles.

It is abnormal for humans to get those adrenalin rushes so often, now imagine the effects on those who have them everyday. No one becomes a police officer to go on the sick!

Instead of properly supporting their staff, starting with teaching about possible effects of the job on health and coping strategies at training stage, all the way through supportive management, good treatment responses, and early interventions, etc chiefs are doing things like stopping promotions and careers or did I misread the news?

Don't wait until someone is burnt out and respond like they are inadequate, because they are not inadequate, the current management of sickness is, in my view, the inadequate one and measures like checking out on staff, sound more like bullying then support to me.

EMILIA SHURMU

Palmer Road

Gorleston

WHAT is the borough council's Conservative administration doing in relation to the public toilets by the bowling green on Marine Parade, at a time when we are all being advised to keep the highest standards of personal hygiene due to the outbreak of Swine Flu.

With a female toilet block of approx 20 cubicles, only two of these are open, resulting in a continuous queue. This at a time of a heatwave and with large numbers of visitors to the town taking advantage of the good weather, the hygiene facilities in these premises is appalling

Millions of pounds have been invested in the seafront over the last few years (some of it unwisely) to encourage more visitors to the town, yet we cannot open our public toilets fully until July 17 - a disgrace for the second largest tourist resort in the country.

TREVOR WAINWRIGHT

Secretary Great Yarmouth CLP,

Lapwing Close,

Bradwell

WHAT has happened to the big screen in the Great Yarmouth's Market Place. No one has seemed to have missed it. Last we heard it was taken away to see if it could be repaired. There was going to be the rock monument put in it's place. All that stands there is the rusting pedestal which it stood on. If it was repaired who would want to insure it and at what cost to the local taxpayer with it's previous history of malfunctions.

P ROBERTS

Palgrave Road,

Great Yarmouth

AT gorleston-heritage.co.uk we get many queries from all over the world not only for genealogy but also other subjects. One question I am having difficulty with at the moment concerns Fred Leighton, who was manager of Sheerness Hippodrome from 1904 to 1909 and is shown on his daughter's wedding certificate in 1916 as a theatrical manager. I also understand he was living with Mrs Roberts, a relation, on Springfield Road, Gorleston about 1911. As this date is in between the previous two I think it is safe to assume he was probably pursuing the same profession. The question is do any Mercury readers know, or have seen his name in research, at what theatre he was working during his time in Gorleston.

DENNIS DURRANT

Brett Avenue,

Gorleston

MY family and I went to watch the Estelle Clifton Dance show at the Hippodrome Circus on Sun day evening and wow, what a fantastic show it was. You always get too much bad press about youngsters of today but these youngsters did Yarmouth proud. The costumes were fabulous and all performers, from young to adult, performed superbly. So much variety, well done Estelle, from one very proud parent.

PAULA CUTAJAR

Ormesby St Margaret

I AM writing to thank the councillors, family, friends and members of the public who attended last Sunday's civic service at St Nicholas' Parish Church. It was a special day for both myself and the mayoress, made all the more memorable by the support of those in attendance. Special mention must be made of the Winterton Marine Cadet Band who led the parade admirably and the Town Hall staff for carrying the regalia.

We hope that people will also support the mayor's charity midsummer barbeque being held at Thrigby Hall wildlife park on Saturday, July 18. All profits from the event will be donated to local charities which include the Kingfisher Boxing Club, St Nicholas' Church Preservation Trust and Winterton Marine Cadets among others. Tickets are available from Laura Goodman at the Town Hall on 01493 846125.

TONY SMITH

Mayor of the borough of Great Yarmouth

PARTS of Great Yarmouth have had the problem of motorhomes being parked for several years.

The new parking restrictions along North Drive have meant that motorhomes have started to appear in the residential areas of north Yarmouth. Is it not time that the relevant authority took the appropriate action quickly so that these vehicles cannot be parked in any of the side roads adjacent to the seafront? Such action has already been taken so far as the other part of North Drive is concerned.

In many instances, the size of these vehicles is excessive for the small side roads and could cause difficulty of access for the emergency services. Additionally, users of these vehicles are not contributing much if anything to the local economy other than their waste and effluent.

If the owners of these monsters can afford to pay for them then surely they could afford also to pay the fees for using the many sites available in the area. It is to be noted that some users of these vehicles are using blue disabled badges when parked. Surely this is an abuse of the system?

M RANDALL

Blake Road

Great Yarmouth

DURING the firework season it is virtually impossible for the police to catch late night offenders because they usually are single offenders all over the place.

However, on Saturday from midnight until about 2am we were subjected to fireworks being let off at regular intervals, which of course meant maximum time of distress for many animals.

The police will say quite correctly that it is their busiest period but what a pity one of them in Gorleston could not have made a detour to visit this offender.

It is all very well threatening people with the arm of the law but how many have actually been fined. This was one of the very few occasions when it would have been easy to make an example of these uncaring inconsiderate people. The location? South east Gorleston.

Name and address withheld

CALLING all Great Yarmouth High School pupils that left in 1986

As we are now approaching our 40's we thought it would be a good idea to arrange a re-union before we forget who everyone is.

Please note owing to the venue being double booked we have a date change. The reunion is to be held at The Gallon Pot, Great Yarmouth on October 24 starting at 7.30pm. Ticket price is £5 and will include a buffet with 80's hits to be played throughout the evening. Please contact me for further information, tickets and to be included in any email updates.

Tel: 07717 415081 or email: martin@coastalcreative.co.uk

We would also love to hear from any of the staff who had the misfortune to teach us.

MARTIN ANDREWS


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