Carmarthenshire Council’s £100k agency bill rise

SPENDING on hiring agency social workers has leapt by £100,000 in a year. Carmarthenshire Council spent £292,152 on hiring agency workers last year (2010/11), compared to £195,412 in 2009/10.

The information, obtained by the Post using the Freedom of Information Act, shows that the authority shelled out the cash to social care agencies Ranstead Care and Beresford Blake Thomas.

The authority has insisted it does not have a staffing problem and only hires agency workers in emergency cases.

The council’s director of social care, health and housing, Bruce McLernon, said: “While we have no problem with recruiting social workers, there are occasions where we need to use agency staff to provide emergency cover.

“Spend on providing such cover for social work posts equates to approximately four per cent of our total costs.”

But county councillor John Jenkins said the authority should be using its own resources.

He said: “The council needs to become better at planning and co-ordinating its own workload.

“There should be council social service staff available whenever the need arises.

“Four per cent may not sound like much — but in this economic climate it’s a big proportion of spending.

A council spokeswoman added: “We don’t have a problem with recruiting social workers, but there are certain circumstances where we must engage the use of agency workers to provide emergency cover.

“As with other social care services, we are legally and morally obliged to provide services when the need or service user is presented to us — we can’t simply refuse to provide services just because the cover isn’t available at that time.”