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Council's temporary worker spend questioned
CRITICS have slammed Cheshire East council for spending £25 million on temporary workers during a period when full time employees were being made redundant .
Cheshire East Labour Group said the ‘outrageously high figures for agency workers show that the council cut too many full time posts without properly thinking through the implications.’
Labour Group Leader, Clr David Newton, said Conservative cuts to front line services, notably social workers, had been ‘premature and excessive.’
The council has defended the figures – pointing to its reduced year on year spend on temporary workers since Cheshire East’s inception in 2009.
£9.8 million was spent in 2009-10, £8.4 million spent in 2010-11 and £6.8 million in 2011-12.
Agency worker spending in the current financial year is £1.2 million, with end of year costs expected to total £3.7 million.
Between April 1-July 31 2012, 336 agency workers were employed, including 48 qualified social and healthcare workers, 205 manual labourers and 30 admin and clerical staff.
Clr Barry Moran, Cabinet member in charge of performance, said: “It is good practice for organisations to employ a number of agency workers so that they are better able to respond to fluctuations in demand for services along with changes to how they provide services, with Cheshire East being no different to any other large employer.”
He added that it was ‘unfair’ to link the employment of agency workers with the provision of directly employed posts at the Council.
He continued: “For example, as part of their safeguarding responsibilities, councils are often required to step in to assist when care providers get into difficulty and it makes complete sense to call in agency workers for this purpose.”
Clr for Sandbach Heath, Sam Corcoran responded: “Only in the topsy-turvy world of the Cheshire East Conservatives could it make complete sense to make social workers redundant and then call in agency workers to fulfil the council’s safeguarding responsibilities.”
Laura Jeuda, Clr for Macclesfield South added: “It is disgraceful that Cheshire East Council is wasting so much of its social care budget on hiring agency workers. What makes it so sickening is that the previous year the council was paying large redundancy payments to get rid of its own social workers. Now it is paying high agency rates to get temporary workers to do the work they were doing.”
Clr Corcoran welcomed a new agency workers contract for the current financial year that Clr Moran said ‘ensures cost effectiveness and value for money.’
Clr Corcoran added: “It is worth noting that the previous provider is no longer supplying new agency workers to Cheshire East Council, presumably because the new arrangements do not allow them to make the profits they could under the old arrangements. This does beg the question of whether the council was paying too much under the old contract.”