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Revealed - Council's £6.5m bill for temporary staff in 12 months

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 May 2019

Suffolk County Council had to plug its abticipated overspend last year with reserves. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council had to plug its abticipated overspend last year with reserves. Picture: ARCHANT

Spending on temporary staff at Suffolk County Council has been reduced but the authority still spent £6.5million on temps in 12 months.

Suffolk cabinet member Richard Smith. Picture; SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILSuffolk cabinet member Richard Smith. Picture; SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The cash-strapped authority, which had to plug a £5.9million gap in its finances last year from reserves, reduced its spending on temporary staff and contractors by £153,504 in the three months to October compared with the previous three month period, latest figures show.

But it still shelled out £1.4m in paying for temporary staff for July, August and September alone, according to data compiled for this week's scrutiny committee.

In the 12 months up to October, temporary staff spend was at £6.5m.

Councillor Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: "The council's business plan for 2019/20 sets out to continue reducing Suffolk County Council's annual spend on temporary staff and contractors.

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour Councillor Sarah Adams Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"This was successful in 2017/18, and the latest figures show that this is also being successful for 2018/19.

"The council continues to work hard to make savings, but also provide additional finances for areas of high demand, such as children's and adults' services."

While there were increases in spend in adult and community services and Trading Standards, the authority significantly scaled back temp staff in health and children's services (down £95,000) and slashed corporate services temp spend by £113,000 - just over a third.

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Adult and community services increased their reliance on temporary staff by nearly £78,000 - an increase of 35%, which finance chiefs said was due to increased spend on technical project managers and training roles for contract management staff.

But Labour group leader Sarah Adams warned that the numbers were still "ridiculously high".

"It is welcome that there has been a small reduction in the spend on temporary staff and contractors, but I don't think there is a huge cause for celebration just yet," she said.

"Suffolk County Council's outlay still amounts to just under £1.5m every quarter and over the past year alone they have spent £6.6m - these are ludicrously high numbers.

"However, of particular concern are the costs for adult care temp staff which have increased by £78,000.

"It is critical that Suffolk's adult care system provides continuity and comfort to the people they care for - this clearly cannot happen if you have a temporary and transient workforce.

"We owe the best standard of care to elderly and vulnerable people, so it is incumbent on Suffolk County Council to urgently address this issue."

The final overspend numbers for the 2018/19 year are set to be published in June, but latest estimates from February indicated the council was on course for a £5.9m overspend, which will have to be covered from council reserves.

If overspending continues at that level, its reserves will be eradicated in less than a decade.

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