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Nearly 1,000 town hall staff still on ‘precarious’ agency contracts

PUBLISHED: 14:51 03 June 2015

Islington Council has almost 1,000 agency staff

Islington Council has almost 1,000 agency staff

Anna Bruce

More than 17 per cent of work force on short term deals

Almost 1,000 town hall staff are on “precarious” agency terms, despite promises to cut down on short term contracts.

Figures in a report delivered to an Islington Council policy and performance scrutiny committee on Monday night show a colossal 972 employees are employed via an agency – more than 17 per cent of the total workforce and higher than the London average of 12 per cent.

The average length of employment is more than a year – and nearly 40 per cent of the agency staff classify themselves as Black or Black British, which critics say is “disproportionate”.

Meanwhile the council’s spend on agency staff is a whopping £26million – up by £4million since it promised to slash the bill a year ago.

Cllr Caroline Russell, Islington Council’s opposition Green Party member, said: “I’m glad to see that the council has been making strides in moving long term employees from temporary to permanent contracts.

“However it is very concerning that so many lower paid staff are still suffering precarious agency employment conditions and it’s alarming that black and ethnic minority workers are disproportionately represented in this group.

“The workers on agency 
contracts are likely to be first 
in line to lose their jobs when the new government’s budget cuts hit as there will be no redundancy pay outs to temporary staff.”

“By contrast some higher paid staff, in hard to fill posts, have the opportunity to ‘manage their tax affairs efficiently’ by providing consultancy services rather than being paid under PAYE.

“I urge Islington Council to lead the way calling on colleagues across the capital to do the right thing and bin the consultancy contracts.

But Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, says the high number of agency staff is partly down to the fact the town hall has brought a lot of services back in house so agency staff show up on their books. The large percentage of black agency staff, he says, is a problem across London, with the council drawing on a capital-wide agency pool.

He said: “The paper presented to Monday’s committee describes a number of ways that we in Islington are working hard to drive down agency usage in the borough, including in our waste collection service.”

But the council will always need some agency staff to cover sickness or absence in vital roles such as care workers, where the work simply cannot wait.

“Councillors [from the committee] have asked us to find ways to reduce our use of agency staff without compromising the services we offer to residents and we are on the case”.

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