Islington Council accused of wasting cash on agency staff

Cllr John Gilbert

Cllr John Gilbert - Credit: Archant

The town hall has been slammed for splashing almost £21million a year on agency staff and consultants.

The figures, revealed in a report delivered to the policy and performance scrutiny committee last week, show in the year up to October 31, 2013, Islington Council paid out a whopping £20,736,253 on temporary staff – up from just £8.3million three years ago.

Agency staff are used for a number of reasons, including covering for sickness and maternity cover, but almost a third of the cash was used to cover unfilled permanent positions, drawing criticism from the opposition Lib Dem group.

Cllr John Gilbert, their finance spokesman, said: “The real headline figure is that they have spent £21million on agency staff, which has risen so much from three years ago.”

But he accepted that it was largely because the council had brought in staff from Homes for Islington, the company who used to look after the council’s housing stock, which came back under town hall control in 2012.

“Even allowing for that it has gone up 36 per cent. You’ve got to look at that in the context of the council having less staff due to the cuts.

“The agencies take their commissions and it is worse value for money and worse for the employees.”

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The average pay rate for agency staff is £15.55 per hour and the average length of time they are employed is 320 days – 16 of the staff are paid at chief officer level.

Robert Oxley, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Relying on expensive temps is poor value for taxpayers’ money and suggests the council isn’t properly managing its staffing levels .

“They may need to use agency staff in emergencies but consistent use costs a fortune.

“Council chiefs need to cut the bill and other waste to provide a better deal for residents and their council tax bills. “

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance and performance said: “Our spend on agency workers has increased recently, but is still £2m less than the £24m spent on agency staff in 2005.

“While some agency staff help us deliver critical IT and change projects, many more are keeping the borough clean and looking after vulnerable residents with home care visits.”

“We are always looking to save costs and have let go two of our highest paid IT agency staff in the past month and are converting agency transport staff to permanent positions.”