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A councillor has branded town hall priorities “warped” after it was revealed that the council has spent £8.2million on agency staff.

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Labour controlled Islington Council hired 247 agency staff over the past 12 months, costing almost £700,000 a month.

Temporary staff make up around 10 per cent of the council workforce, while 200 permanent staff are being made redundant as part of budget cuts.

Cllr John Gilbert, Lib Dem finance spokesman, said: “An £8million bill for agency staff is hardly good value for money, especially in these tough times.

“It is ironic that this mind-blowing figure was revealed in a presentation by the Labour councillor for finance called Delivering Basic Services Efficiently and Well.

“The council has made nearly 200 full-time staff redundant to reduce its costs. So it has a truly warped sense of priority if Labour councillors now think it is cost effective to spend £8m filling the gaps with agency staff.”

Agency staff are meant to save money because they are not entitled to sick or holiday pay and can be let go at short notice.

But the opposition Lib Dem group believes that the high turnover leads to a disjointed service for people, particularly among carers of vulnerable people.

In 2009/10, agency spend was £12m under the Lib Dems. Opposition leader Cllr Terry Stacy said this was because of a national shortage of social workers and other key staff, and had pledged to bring the figure down.

He claims this year’s lower figure is a result of that pledge, and says the council should have done more to bring it down further.

Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, said: “The amount the council spends on agency staff is a third lower than under the Lib Dem administration – who spent a staggering £12,758,31 in 2009/10.

“Almost 90 per cent of the savings we’ve had to make this year have come from cost-cutting, such as sharing services and re-negotiating contracts.”

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