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Council reliant on agency staff to fill vacancies

2023-06-01 17:49:46 source:CBS News author:Press center8 click:210order

A council spent £12.8m on agency staff in one year and admitted it "can't survive" without them.

A Freedom of Information request revealed Newport City Council also spent £8.9m on agency workers in the previous financial year.

But the cost is "mitigated" by having vacancies, a council officer said.

Officers argue competition from the private sector and pay constraints mean councils struggle to recruit and retain staff.

The figures relate to the council's 2021-22 and 2020-21 financial years.

In a performance scrutiny committee meeting, Tracy McKim, head of people, policy and transformation, said: "We can't survive without employing supply teachers and agencies. We can't afford to pay additional resources [for staff] to sit around and be called-in when someone's off."

Ms McKim added: "There's a balance to be struck and generally speaking those agency costs are mitigated by having a vacancy."

Strategic director at the council, Rhys Cornwall, defended the use of agency workers, saying: "It may be in schools, it may be in refuse collection, but we have got to have somebody there, that day, to do that job."

The report stated the council is aiming to limit its use of agency workers, and that its approach to agency use is currently under review, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Senior council officer Kevin Howells said part of the council's recruitment problem was people believing a "myth" that you have to know someone in the council to get a job there.

He added: "We will see the [recruitment] team more and more regularly getting out into the city, going to job fairs, demystifying around Newport City Council and trying to attract applicants into the organisation."

Benefits including car purchase schemes, cycle-to-work schemes, a high street discount card, technology schemes, discounted leisure facilities, ability to purchase additional annual leave, and home working are also being offered to prospective employees.

Retention is also a problem for the council. In 2022-23, 850 members of staff left the local authority - a turnover of 14.4%.

The report states that budget cuts in certain areas of the council takes a "toll" on staff morale and wellbeing because of increased pressure on them.

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