Why Leeds council says its agency worker spending rose by £1.3m in two years

Leeds City Council has seen its spending on agency workers increase by £1.3m in just two years.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:45 am

The amount spent on agency staff rose from £7.17m in 2018/19 to £8.47m in 2020/21, a total cost to the taxpayer of nearly £80,000 per year for each full-time equivalent (FTE) member of staff.

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The council claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on its need to employ temporary staff, adding that mark-ups charged by agencies often upped the costs.

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The council said the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on its need to employ temporary staff. Picture: Tony Johnson

A report by council officers is set to be discussed by the authority’s Resources Scrutiny Board on Monday, July 19.

It added that the total number of full time equivalent (FTE) staff employed via an agency stood at about 108.8. At a total cost of £8.47m, this works out at a cost to the taxpayer of £77,849-a-year for each FTE member of staff. This is not just the basic pay for staff, however, as other costs are included when employing agency staff.

A report by Leeds City Council officers claimed that the costs for agency workers are more expensive than direct employees, mainly due to mark ups charged by agencies, which the council says often amounts to an extra £2.50 for every £10 spent on basic pay.

It adds savings had been made since 2013, when the spend for agency workers had peaked at £16.5m.

However, the council also claims the current use of agency workers has been “skewed” due to Covid-19.

The report stated: “Leeds City Council, like most authorities, uses suppliers to provide agency workers. This is to support short term needs for staff cover.

“In come cases, agency workers also provide supplementary or specialist skills when it is difficult to recruit personnel for work that cannot be easily sourced internally.

“Demand was affected in different ways (by Covid), as were opportunities to support services to take measures to review and/or reduce underlying demand.

“As well as costs, decisions to use agency workers are influenced by the skills and ability of agency workers to perform work. Generally, it is easier to deploy agency workers to perform less complex work.”

It claimed that a new agency contract is currently being let and will be in place by January 2022, stating: “Ahead of this, there is an opportunity to rethink how the different ideas discussed in this report might be applied.”

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