Welsh Council’s agency staff bill tops £3.5m in one year
Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter
A Welsh Council has spent more than £3.5m on agency workers in the last year – more than doubling its allocated budget.
Flintshire Council aimed to keep agency spending to £1.7m in the 2022/23 financial year but the council more than £3.5m on agency staff.
There are currently 91 agency staff working for the council although efforts are being made to reduce this number and recruit more permanent members of staff.
A report to the authority’s corporate resources and overview and scrutiny committee this week gives an update on the council’s workforce.
According to the report Streetscene and Social Services are the areas of the council where there has been the most spending on agency staff.
But a recruitment drive is currently taking place for the hiring of Streetscene operatives, whilst nationally there is competition to hire skilled social workers with a growing shortage of staff.
The report says: “As of 31 March 2023, there were 91 active agency placements on matrix across all portfolios.
“The cumulative agency expenditure for 2022/23 is £3.61m. The largest agency spend is within Streetscene and Transportation at £1.52m. The second largest spend is within Social Services at £1.26m.
“There is a live advert for 17 Streetscene operatives (with interviews planned for 25/26 May).
“Further recruitment exercises are planned for nine additional posts in the coming weeks which should lead to further reductions in the number of agency workers.
“The cumulative ‘off-contract’ spend for 2022/23 is £1.48m, which equates to 41.13 per cent of the overall agency spend. The main reasons for ‘off-contract’ spend is where there is a need to fill specialist, hard to fill roles such as social workers.”
The report adds: “Over the last six months, and in response to the increasing instability in the recruitment market, local authorities in Wales have been working together to develop a joint approach to the use of agency social workers in children’s services.
“All 22 Welsh authorities have signed an All-Wales Pledge which is a commitment to work co-operatively and transparently to manage the agency supply chain, improve the quality of staff and regulate pay rates within agency.
“The pledge comes into effect on 1 May 2023 for one year and will be reviewed in January 2024.”
Overall, the turnover in council staff at the end of the 2022/23 financial year was 11.46 per cent, a small increase on the previous year which was 10.53 per cent.
According to the report, of the 704 employees that have left, 50 per cent left voluntarily (352 employees).
The report adds: “The largest area of employees leaving voluntarily is within schools (179 employees), the majority of which is part of the natural turnover/cycle we see at the end of each academic year.
“The second largest area is within Social Services (88 employees). The cessation of the Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service resulted in 23 employees being made redundant, 16 people left due to their fixed term contract ending. Three employees were successfully redeployed into alternative roles.”
The scrutiny committee meets on Thursday (May 18) to discuss the report.
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Councils have no idea how to run efficiently. They spend money like it’s going out of fashion. But I don’t suppose they care as it isn’t their own cash and know they can increase council tax to cover their inadequacies and incompetence.
They tend to be “blessed” with sizeable H.R departments who should be assessing skills shortages and creating plans for the recruitment and training of the necessary mix of skills. But as you say they can’t be bothered to shape up and end up gifting labour contracts to all sorts of agencies who just love fleecing the public purse. Probably do the occasional social event too.