Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council: Smoking ban 'stretches goodwill'

Man smoking a cigarette
Image caption Workers at county council offices are banned from taking smoking breaks outside scheduled lunch breaks

A anti-smoking policy is stretching the goodwill of already-stressed staff at a cash-strapped council, a union says.

In October, Northamptonshire County Council introduced a policy of not smoking near its buildings and banned popping out for unofficial cigarette breaks.

Unison was critical of the effects and said more flexibility was needed.

A council spokesman said it had seen more smokers sign up to quitting programmes as a result.

People can now only smoke during scheduled breaks, away from buildings.

Image caption Smokers are banned from lighting up near Northamptonshire County Council buildings

Kevin Standishday, Unison's branch secretary at the council, said: "I don't want to encourage people to smoke, but the council must recognise a significant number of staff do.

"It is an addiction and not being able to smoke a couple of times a day increases stress and is stretching goodwill.

"Every department is under-resourced with everyone working extra hours. The council is relying on the goodwill of staff under stress."

The Conservative-run council is run by government-appointed commissioners and the council has agreed to make cuts of £41m for 2019-20, giving it a budget of £411m.

The union representative said the council should show more flexibility and that going for a cigarette did not "take up any more time than people making a cup of tea or coffee".

He said no-one had been disciplined yet, but one person was being monitored.

'Large improvement'

The council said its policy prohibited smoking near council buildings.

"If employees choose to smoke or vape in their designated 20-minute statutory break, this should not be within the visible vicinity of council buildings," its statement said.

"Since the council introduced its smoke-free policy, we've noticed a large improvement and more people signing up for support to quit."

Mr Standishday said many of the staff in the smoking cessation team had been made redundant in recent staff cuts.

The council said there had been no recent redundancies in the team, but that "some long-term vacancies were deleted".

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