Sheffield Council’s spending on agency staff rockets due to Covid and social care crisis

Sheffield Council is spending more than £1 million a month on expensive temporary staff, a sum that has rocketed due to Covid and the social care crisis.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 2:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 3:48 pm

The figures were revealed in an answer to a full council question submitted by the Liberal Democrats this month.

They showed that spending had increased from £10,162,959 in 2017/18 to £12,393,634 in the most recent financial year.

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Sheffield Council's spending on agency staff rockets due to Covid-19 and social care crisis.

Across the four year period, the council has spent a total of nearly £43 million on temporary staff.

Councillor Mohammed Mahroof, who asked for the figures, said: “It’s frankly an astonishing amount of money for the council to be paying out month after month. Of course, many of the people the council is employing on temporary contracts are doing essential jobs and making a real difference to the lives of residents but employing people on these short-term contracts means we end up paying more to recruitment agencies and consultants.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: “This is typical of the current Labour/Green coalition in charge of Sheffield. They use an expensive short-term sticking plaster and forget about the long-term costs to Sheffield’s taxpayers.

Sheffield Council's spending on agency staff rockets due to Covid-19 and social care crisis.

“The council is set to have a deficit of tens of millions of pounds this year, meaning it will take money out of its reserves just to keep the lights on. If this keeps going the council will go bust and put a huge number of services at risk. We are simply saying that the council needs to look at its staffing arrangements and come up with a long-term plan.”

Why has agency staff spending increased?

The council said it had become increasingly reliant on agency workers due to the pressures of the pandemic and a national shortage in care staff.

In the response to Coun Mahroof’s question, the council said: “There is a national shortage of candidates of the right calibre particularly in social care and trades.

“Our agency temporary staffing contract with Reed has been instrumental in finding solutions and working to fill these posts.

“The growth is largely down to social care and that’s because we are unable to recruit permanently. It’s basic demand and supply – there are not enough people in the market and that pushes the price up.

“Experienced social workers are able to work on their terms, which, in some cases, is to work through an agency and demand higher wages that we pay to permanent staff.

“This is coupled with pandemic impact and re-focussing of council services over the last 18 months has led to an increased reliance on our temporarystaffing base as we have reacted to new pressures and stretched to maintain key services to the citizens of Sheffield.

“The impact of both the Covid pandemic and current financial challenges have led to a period of uncertainty when assessing our future temporary staffing resource requirement and the last 18 months spend on agency staffing is atypical.

“It is essential that we do everything we can to reduce expenditure in agency and temporary staffing contracts. As such, we have been in conversations with Reed about our contract arrangement extension opportunity to explore savings to the council.”