Stevenage Borough Council pays out £1.4 million to recruitment agencies in just six months
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage Borough Council has handed over almost £1.5 million to recruitment firms to hire staff and to agencies to hire temporary staff in the past six months.
An investigation of the council’s spending, which it publishes on its website, shows £1,444,404 was spent in the accounting category of personnel placement/temps/agency staff between January and June this year.
The figures suggest that as the Government cuts its funding, paradoxically SBC is having to splash out larger sums on expensive temporary staff to fill gaps in its staffing.
For each month – January to June 2017 – the payments are well over £200,000 with the highest monthly payment being £282,714 in February and the smallest spend at £213,835 in April.
Council leader Sharon Taylor told the Comet the “uncertainty” of government funding for its annual budgets means it is getting harder for the council to plan its annual staffing, so rather than making the council more efficient it means larger sums of money are having to be splashed out on temporary staff.
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With the Government expected to cut council funding completely by 2020 and no free hand to raise council tax or business rates, she says austerity is backfiring badly.
Ms Taylor added SBC does have a higher spend on temp staff than many other councils because it has a lot of in-house services like waste and street cleaning and it has to maintain its own council housing unlike many other authorities.
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Councillor Robin Parker, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said he has tried to investigate high spending on temp staff over the years but has always been told by officers there were specific reasons for the high spend at different times.
He said: “Agency and temp staff are very expensive compared to permanent staff and the question needs to be asked whether we are getting value for money.
“The fact is, local government workers have not had a lot in the way of pay rises over the past seven years, so often the council is relying on the good will of its staff to stay with them.
“There have also been a large number of re-organisations at the council in recent years and each one involves changes in staffing.
“At a time when money is tight this needs to be carefully scrutinised.”
Conservative group leader James Fraser said he would request to speak to the council’s chief executive to investigate the figures.
Councillor Joan Lloyd, executive member for resources, said: “Like most organisations, from time to time we need additional, short-term support – which might be seasonal – so that we can continue to provide a good level of service to our customers, and, on occasion, we employ temporary workers with specialist skills to undertake specific projects. We have an annual salary budget that covers the costs of both permanent staff and temporary workers, and we regularly review our spend to ensure we maintain value for money.”
The payments have been made to a range of different local and regional recruitment agencies including Essential Results Limited, Michael Page International Recruitment, James Andrews Recruitment Solutions Ltd, The Oyster Partnership Ltd and Greenacre Recruitment Ltd.
The recruitment is for staff across the council’s departments including depot trading accounts, the council’s BMO department which manages its council housing, homeless and housing advice, human resources, customer services and environmental services.
The highest payments made in any one day were on January 31 when 23,750 was shelled out to Oyster Recruitment partnership.
On January 24, 21,060 was paid to the same supplier and on January 10 and 17 more than £16,000 was paid to it.
SBC, which employs around 760 permanent staff, has had to find £226,000 savings from its overall £9.4 million budget for 2017 to 2018.
Its annual government grants will have been cut by £4.43m since 2011 and the authority expects to face another £550,000 in cuts by 2020.