Council Caned Over Use Of Agency Staff

Councillors have attacked their own council for spending more than £4.5m last year on agency staff. An investigation by a scrutiny committee of Flintshire County Council says reliance on temporary staff by other councils does not excuse Flintshire’s “laissez-faire approach” to using such staff.

The year-long investigation was hampered by a shortage of information about the money spent on temporary staff and a lack of definitions of contract, agency, temporary or interim staff and consultants.

Figures in the committee’s report show that in 2005-06 Flintshire spent £4.56m on agency staff. That was more than double the figure for 2002-03, although inconsistencies in accounting may make comparisons inaccurate.

“It would appear there has been scant regard for any of the internal audit report, which is a sad indictment on the attitude towards audit issues,” says the report. We are not satisfied that all our questions have been answered, even now. It should not have been possible for the county council to carry on for 10 years without appropriate guidelines for the use of agency staff.

“If we don’t know how many people we have and how much these individuals cost, it makes it very difficult to deliver our services. We should never use agency staff as an alternative to permanent staff.”

The Unison union told the investigation that Flintshire’s use of agency staff significantly affected promotion prospects for permanent staff.

The committee advocated setting a maximum percentage of temporary staff to be employed at any one time, and reducing the number of “mini restructures” in response to budget cuts.