Sheffield Council agency staff costs rise to £7m

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Use of agency staff by Sheffield Council has almost trebled in three years - and the cost of hiring them has increased to £7 million.

Opposition Liberal Democrats have voiced concern about the figures, which show 945 agency workers were employed in 2012-13, compared with 373 in 2010-11 – the last year they were in control of the authority.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem group leader, said: “It is inexplicable why Labour have overseen a huge increase in agency staff while laying people off. We’re calling for an investigation.”

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP, said: “It cannot be right to make staff redundant while employing new agency workers.”

Trade union officials say workers made redundant due to the cuts have returned as agency workers to cut pension costs. Although numbers of agency workers rose almost three-fold, their cost only increased from £4 million in 2010-11 to £7 million – indicating a lot of agency staff were low paid.

Rod Padley, Unison trade union organiser at the council, said: “Managers have walked back into highly-paid consultancy roles after being laid off and that shouldn’t be allowed - but a lot are social services staff, cleaners or gardeners.”

Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for finance, said: “The cost of agency staff is still below the national average for local authorities. Two-thirds of all agency spend is for frontline services for children and adults.”

The council said agency staff are not permanent but cover for vacancies and during service changes.