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Islington Council sets out plans to cut £22million agency staff bill

PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 May 2014

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall

Anna Bruce

»The number of agency staff working at Islington Council is set to be slashed after it was revealed they are costing the authority £22million a year.

A report handed to senior councillors found that spend on consultancy and agency staff was still at an “unacceptably high level”, despite reductions in the last two years, with some receiving the same salary as the chief executive.

It also raised concerns over the length of time some had worked at the council, with one agency worker in digital services in post for 10 years.

The council employs 5,000 staff and around 12 per cent of these are agency workers.

A total of 14 agency workers were being paid the same rate as a chief officer’s salary – anything from £84,000 up to £145,000. This has since decreased to nine.

The number of agency staff in digital services has also reduced from 50 in 2010 to 18.

As part of plans to reduce agency costs, the council is proposing to recruit graduates in digital services and train them to take over some of the functions of expensive agency staff.

The report has also outlined plans to set-up an in-house employment agency which would employ local residents.

A full review of all agency workers who have been at the council for more than 24 months will be carried out “with a view to end” such contracts and in future all agency staff who work at the council for more than six months will have to get approval from the chief executive.

Executive member for finance and performance, Andy Hull, said he accepted the committee’s findings and while significant reductions on agency spend had been made, more must be done.

“We are spending less now than were in 2005 but there is room for improvement,” he said.

“The reason we have not done more before is either because we haven’t tried hard enough to recruit to certain roles or because it is too hard to recruit permanent staff in those fields, especially IT.”

He said although there were individual cases where temporary IT workers were being paid huge salaries, the majority were in adult social care, housing and waste services.

Cllr Hull added that many council services which were contracted out to private firms had now been brought in-house. As a result, £10million of agency costs which were once absorbed in contractor spend budget now show up on the council budget.

“Since the report began we have already cut the number of the highest paid agency staff by five and 75 people have been offered permanent posts,” he said.

“But we will always have to use some agency staff when permanent staff are off sick.”

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