TOWN hall chiefs are currently finding new jobs within the authority for older workers in a bid to halt a tide of ill-health and early retirements.

And stress is to blame for much of the dilemma.

Since January last year, 18 staff have been medically redeployed as a result of ill-health and 11 others who would have taken early retirement have also been found different work.

Councillors were told at a management and finance committee meeting yesterday that the move has saved £500,000 of public money instead of people retiring early.

Cllr Peter Johnston, chairman of the council's personnel sub committee, said: "We have people who have had a change in their capability to carry out their present jobs.

"They can either retire early with a cost to the public purse, or we can try to find them another job. There is a retraining cost, but it is less than if someone is taking their pension early.

"In addition, these are people who have a lot to offer in terms of skills and experience and we are not throwing them on the scrapheap."

Mr David Winstanley, assistant chief executive said that few council workers currently retire at the normal age of 65.

But the council does have a higher proportion of "over 50s" employees than other organisations.

Many either take early retirement packages or leave on ill-health grounds.

Cllr Guy Harkin, deputy council leader, said that Bolton's position was similar to other councils and other public sector employers.

He said that eight out of 24 recent ill-health retirements had been on the grounds of stress or depression.

He said: "Fifteen years ago, it was a rarity for a doctor to say that someone was sufficiently stressed that they could not carry on working.

"There is now an increase of certified sickness relating to stress.

"If someone has the required sick note which says that they cannot carry on working, then there is nothing we can do about it."

Cllr Johnston added: "The working environment is now a much more tense place than it was 20 years ago which may explain the increase in stress."

His Labour colleague Cllr Mrs Rosa Kay added: "I think that redeployment is a good policy. I think it is working, but it needs a lot more time."

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