The bill for agency and bank staff topped £9 million in a year at Brighton and Hove City Council, according to figures it released in answer to a “freedom of information” request.
The council spent £7.6 million on agency staff, with the highest amount going on qualified social workers. A further £1.5 million went on internal bank staff.
An American company called Guidant, with offices in Queen’s Road, Brighton, was paid £732,000 for the annual cost of payroll services in the year in question, 2015-16.
And Guidant was paid £44,464, the council said, to manage the bookings and timesheets “for our in-house casual staff pool for provision of care workers”.
Guidant said on its website that it had saved the council more than £3 million over eight years.
A union official said that the £9 million bill was extortionate and called on the council to employ more staff on fair terms and to manage existing staff better.
This would result in less sickness absence, fewer staff leaving and a reduced need for agency and bank cover, GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said, adding: “We have been raising this issue with the council for some time.
“The agency spend is extortionate. A lot of it is in our view a misuse of public funds to an extent.
“There are a number of departments – housing is one – where a lot of agency staff are there long term. There are aspects when it’s useful but after three months it’s not cost-effective.
“The council should be employing more people. A significant number of people may also now have employment rights and I would encourage them to contact us.
“When it comes to the council’s budget, this is an area the union has raised. They should carry out a wholesale review of agency spend. The savings will outstrip what it will cost.
“The council says it doesn’t agree with zero hours contracts but they do – they employ people on zero hours contracts.”
Mr Turner cited “Care Crew” as an example. He said: “There is a role for agency staff to cover sickness absences.”
But he said that some people had been made redundant, only to end up working for the council through the agency.
This ended up costing taxpayers more, with a wasted redundancy payment as well as agency fees – which were more than wages – and at the same time those workers often had fewer rights.
He questioned the way in which the agency bill was managed and added: “What is the benefit of using an agency? Why are we paying more? How many are employed for more than six months?”
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