Council bosses in Leeds are forking out more than £30m in agency staff and overtime payments while shedding staff as part of public spending cuts.
Figures show that Leeds City Council, which has an annual staffing budget of £400m, spent £20m on agency staff and £10.5m on overtime during 2011-2012. Now efforts are being made to try to reduce the amounts spent.
Over the past two years the council has reduced its permanent staff by around 1,500 to just over 12,500.
According to a council report, agency staff are mostly used to cover for sickness and vacancies, with jobs covered including refuse collection, social care, social workers, catering, driving, general industrial, security and administration.
Over the past 12 months, the highest spenders on agency staff were children’s services at £7m, adult social care at nearly £4m and environment and neighbourhoods at nearly £2m.
Among the biggest spenders on overtime payments during 2011-2012 were environment and neighbourhoods at £2.9m, adult social care £2.1m and resources at £2m.
About 1,600 staff received some overtime payment last month.
The report to the council’s resources scrutiny board says that rates paid to agency workers are usually lower than the wages received by council staff, although any workers engaged for more than 12 weeks must receive the same rates as council workers.
It adds: “As reliable agency staff tend to be rebooked for recurring assignments, over 80 per cent of assignments now exceed 12 weeks.
“While agency workers and overtime are relatively low proportions of the overall budget, they are significant amounts and it is important costs are controlled and reduced.”
Alex Watson, of the human resources team, said: “We know this a problem and we need to find ways of reducing it.”
The council’s internal audit unit is planning to undertake a ‘value for money’ review of agency workers and other measures are being taken to reduce the amount spent.
They include establishing an internal administration pool to carry out work currently done by agency staff, recruitment of 18 extra refuse staff, a review of agency cover and taking on more social workers.
The report said: “A lack of experienced social workers meant Leeds needed to hire agency workers.”