THE number of days taken off sick by council staff in East Lancashire has been dramatically driven down, new figures have revealed.

Hyndburn Borough Council has more than halved the time its workers call-in ill during the past ten years.

And reductions have also been reported by Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley and Lancashire County councils.

All the authorities said they had seen a decrease through a combination of closer monitoring and health promotion activities.

For years high levels of absence for illness in public sector organisations compared to private companies has been a major problem.

According to accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers nationally workers in the public sector took an average of 12 days off sick in 2010/2011, while private sector workers took 10 days.

Hyndburn however saw the number of days its 325 staff were off sick fall from 14 days in 2002/2003 to 6.02 in 2010/2011 and 5.81 days in 2011/12.

Blackburn with Darwen, with 2,800 staff, has seen its sickness rate per employee fall from 10.34 in 2007/2008 to 9.67 in 2010/2011 and 9.26 in 2011/2012. It's target for 2012/2013 is eight days.

Ribble Valley borough has also seen staff absence rates fall from 12.41 in 2002/2003 to 6.01 in 2011/2012, although it said the earlier figure had been affected by long term absences.

Chorley has also seen big reduction in average days off sick, from 12.74 in 2002/2003 to 6.9 in 2010/2011 and 5.44 in 2011/2012.

Hyndburn said its success in more than halving sickness was thanks to a variety of initiatives including a special ‘Workplace Awareness Team’ which had worked with local GPs and NHS primary care staff to introduce lunchtime fitness events such as walking, cycling, netball and zumba.

It also has cancer and cholesterol awareness sessions and offers an over-40s special health MoT.

Council leader Miles Parkinson added: “Much of the success is just down to sound management, meaning staff know what’s expected of them, get thanked for doing a good job and are able to contribute their own ideas for making improvements or savings.”

Blackburn with Darwen’s resources chief Coun Andy Kay, said: “We have a robust system in place to monitor sickness rates and we are committed to reducing the numbers and actively looking at how this can be done.

“However, over the last two years we have been through some tough times as an organisation with people going through a period of great instability and the loss of 1,000 posts.

“This obviously places a great deal of pressure on our staff and their families, which also has an impact on health and absenteeism.”

A Ribble Valley council spokesman said: "Our downward trend in sickness absence over the last 10 years is due to our pro-active approach to absence management, coupled with a long-term strategy of health promotion and health awareness for staff, featuring health awareness and advice features in our staff newsletter, annual health checks, the use of occupational health services and active health and safety management, such as risk assessments and health and safety training."

Elsewhere in East Lancashire, the Burnley figures fell from 13.3 days in 2004/2005 to 5.76 days in 2011/2012, Rossendale 8.7 days in 2007/2008 to 6.75 days in 2011/2012 and Pendle 10.6 days in 2003/04 to 6.628 in the current year.