More than £1.5 million has been spent on agency staff at the Isle of Wight Council over the last year.
Agency staff have been used to cover sickness, maternity leave and to ‘plug gaps’ in departments across the authority. In some situations, specialist staff have been brought over from the mainland, with the council covering ferry costs and accommodation.
£1,526,816 in 12 months
Between May 2017 and May this year, the Isle of Wight Council spent £1,526,816 on staff across the authority — but particularly within the mental health team, and children’s services.
In May alone — the most recent month available to view — the authority spent £119,710 on agency staff.
The highest monthly spend was in April this year, with £205,120 spent. The lowest spend was September 2017 with £46,356 spent.
Agency spend steadily rising
Since December 2017 the amount spent on agency staff has been steadily increasing, with figures averaging £150,000 per month.
The money comes from the council’s revenue budget meaning it has been, in part, funded by council tax.
Three per cent of staff costs
Deputy council leader, and finance cabinet member, Cllr Stuart Hutchinson said he was not surprised by the figures.
Cllr Hutchinson said:
“We spend over £50 million annually on our directly employed staff and this accounts for about three per cent of that.
“Of course that seems a lot but even a small council spends a very large amount of money — our gross budget is about £450 million.”
‘Plugging the gaps’
He said a lot of the money was spent on staff in mental health services and to ‘plug the gaps’ in social services.
“We want to keep the services running.”
Although the council try to recruit from on the Island, Cllr Hutchinson said in some situations staff had to be brought over from the mainland. In these situations, travel and accommodation costs will have been covered by the council.
He added: “If anyone wants to criticise they should come along and see how we do it, and if they can do it better, I am very happy for them to give it a try.”
Baker-Smith: “Consistency for service users is vitally important”
Labour councillor, Cllr Julia Baker-Smith, said the high spend was worrying and should be investigated.
Cllr Baker-Smith said:
“It concerns me that the Conservatives are employing staff on a temporary basis without giving them job security, many of whom I’m sure will be on zero hour contracts, living from week to week. Particularly concerning is the high agency spend in mental health, social care and children’s services; areas where consistency for service users is vitally important.
“In times of savage cuts to services for disabled people, elderly people and children it is vital that money is not wasted unnecessarily and goes to provide the best possible service.”
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed