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Union's anger over Suffolk County Council's temporary staff costs

PUBLISHED: 09:30 21 February 2011

Endeavour House in Ipswich: home of Suffolk County Council

Endeavour House in Ipswich: home of Suffolk County Council

A UNION has heavily criticised Suffolk County Council for "horrific abuse of the public purse" after new figures revealed the authority spent more than £6million on hiring temporary staff in two years.

The figures, obtained following a Freedom of Information Act request, have been branded as “out of control spending” by the workers union GMB.

The revelation comes just days after county councillors agreed to cut £42.5m from services in Suffolk at a controversial budget meeting.

The decision will see seven of the county’s household waste and recycling centres close to save £800,000 and lollipop men and women will disappear from outside schools to save £230,000.

Last night, the authority said that temporary staff were used in a variety of roles and that its overall employment costs were going down.

The new data reveals the cost of employing temporary staff at the county council has reached £6,218,951 since January 1, 2009.

Mark Holland, regional officer for GMB, said councillors should “get a grip” on spending, adding: “Suffolk County Council spending more than £6m on temporary staff is an horrific abuse of the public purse.

“The point is that this is more than just filling in gaps.

“Too many councils are using cheap temps when they should be recruiting permanent staff who can be properly trained and given the experience that is necessary to provide quality local services to the public.

“GMB call on Suffolk councillors to get a grip on this out of control spending. GMB have experience of how this can be done and we are willing to enter into discussions to achieve this result.”

More than £2,260,000 was spent on employing temporary workers through Customer Service Direct UK (CSD) under the banner of Children and Young People Services, while a further £1,455,000 was spent on Adult and Community Services.

The Trading Standards department has spent more than £200,000 on hiring temps from agencies outside of CSD, while the Social Inclusion and Diversity Team has racked up a bill worth £30,302 for temporary members of staff.

County councillor Kathy Pollard, leader of the Suffolk Liberal Democrats, said that she was shocked that the amount of money spent on temporary staffing was the amount being cut from the region’s library service.

“I would be interested in knowing whether all these people are included within the head count for the plans to get rid of so many members of staff.

“The figures reflect £3m being spent on temping each year for two years – this is the same amount of money that is being cut from our library service.

“You would assume that they are relying too heavily on temporary staff.

“I think we need to question why they are employing and spending so much money on temps.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said: “It is important to recognise that these figures cover two years of cost.

“The county council uses temporary staff in a variety of roles including carers in residential homes, supply teachers and cleaners.

“Many large organisations use temporary staff, and at Suffolk County Council, our overall employment costs are going down.”

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