IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall’s spending on agency workers soars

Islington Council’s outlay on ‘temp staff and interims’ went up by £3m during the past 12 months

03 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Green councillor Caroline Russell has criticised the Town Hall for using agency staff who are often on less secure contracts than full-time council employees

THE Town Hall has spent an extra £3million on agency staff in the past 12 months.

Between June 2018 and May 2019 the council spent about £20million on interim staff which then rose to £23million over the same period the following year.

The council’s Performance and Policy committee was due to scrutinise a report on the spending last night (Thursday).

Council documents say: “Agency staffing (interim, consultants, and agency workers) form a necessary contingent part of our workforce where specialist skills or short-term front-line cover for our services are required.

“It is recognised however that this spend has increased and further action is now required to ensure we hit our target of the percentage of agency as a proportion of all staff, which is 10 per cent.”

The council is locked into a contract with employment agency Reed until January next year.

Green councillor Caroline Russell has regularly criticised the Town Hall for using agency staff who are often on less secure contracts than full-time council employees.

Council officers have highlighted three areas they believe has contributed to the rising costs in agency staff: an increase in their hourly rate, a higher “average tenure” and more overtime.

In the last year alone, the council has spent £2.4million on overtime payments. This is now “under review” with the potential of an overtime cap being introduced.

Satnam Gill, the Town Hall’s finance chief, said: “We spent a bit more on temp staff and interims recently than in the past partly because we have a lot more staff. Under the previous Lib Dem administration, a third of the council force was outsourced. Now, if someone is off sick we have to pay agency staff to cover that.

“We had some extra expenditures last year as we had a number of key vacancies. Once we have all those vacancies filled I think you will see that figure drop.”

A majority of the extra spend was in the Environment and Regeneration department.

The Tribune reported last year of an exodus of several senior bosses in that department.

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