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England – Council reportedly spends £20 million on agency staff following redundancies

26 September 2013

Council spending on temporary staff surged by £5 million last year after it made hundreds of workers redundant in a supposed cost-cutting drive, according to the Croydon Guardian.

Unions denounced ‘a gross waste of money’ after Croydon Council spent £20.6 million on agency and interim workers, some employed to fill gaps left by the 632 permanent staff who have lost their jobs in the last five years.

The increase, up from £15.6 million last year, follows an intensive redundancy drive between 2010 and 2012, during which 435 people were made unemployed. The redundancies reportedly cost the council £7.5 million in compensation packages.

It also reportedly paid out a further £1.9 million last year to 79 staff who were made redundant and 40 workers who took voluntary redundancy.

Onay Kasab, the regional officer for trade union Unite, described the figures as "obscene". He said to the Croydon Guardian: "There have been a huge number of permanent jobs lost and yet the work still needs to be done. Those posts have been filled by agency staff.”

"With agency and temporary staff there are the fees to the agencies and the recruitment still takes time, but unfortunately the reason local authorities do it - especially large ones like Croydon - is to maintain some kind of control over their workforce. The cost simply is not worth it. It is a gross waste of money."

Mr Kasab suggested to the Croydon Guardian that social services and housing departments were the ones most likely to rely on temporary workers.

According to the Guardian, Croydon Council spent £674,000 more than it budgeted for last year on staffing within its children in need services, after it imposed a recruitment freeze, leaving gaps in its workforce, which it plugged with agency workers.

Local Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council’s Labour opposition group, described the figures as "a scandal". He said: "They have made people with will many years of experience and qualifications on the dole and then employed temporary consultants, often at two or three times the rate of pay, to do the same job.”

"It shows a completely short-sighted approach and is a huge waste of both human resources, including many local people, and taxpayers’ money," he added.

Steve O'Connell, the Croydon Council's cabinet member for finance, denied the redundancy drive had left the council's workforce short. He conceded, however: "There will always, regretfully, be turnover of staff and sometimes that will leave gaps that would only need to be covered by agency staff over a short period without going through a complete full-time hiring process."

He added: "The council is going through a period of serious and significant change and over a period of time has employed interim staff to ensure the business runs effectively and there's continuity. Of course that would include covering shortages in some areas and high-skilled specialist project work for which it would be sensible to hire agency staff as opposed to taking on permanent staff."

The council this week, reported a projected overspend of £2.3 million between April and June, the first quarter of the financial year. The largest unbudgeted outlay was a £981,000 overspend on its children-in-need service's assessment and care planning team, 78% of which was reportedly spent on agency workers.

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