An article in today’s Times covers the issue of council spend on agency staff. The article outlines figures which show Birmingham City Council has spent the most nationally since 2010.
However, the article links this to staff being rehired after being made redundant by councils. As part of our response to the Times under the Freedom of Information Act, we made it clear there are strict rules that prevent this from immediately happening.
The Times asked us:
How many people your council hired on a consultancy basis who were previously directly employed by your local authority on a salary of Â£70,000 or more in the last 12 months.
We replied by saying the answer was zero, as a result of the following well-established council policy:
Alternative employment with Birmingham City Council
If you have taken redundancy without a pension payment, you will not be able to re-join the council for a period of at least 12 months. You will be able to register as an agency worker, however you will not be able to work as an agency worker for the council for a period of 12 months.
If you have taken redundancy with a pension payment, you will not be able to re-join until at least 3 years has lapsed. You will be able to register as an agency worker, however you will not be able to work as an agency worker for the council for a period of 3 years.
In terms of agency spend since 2010, which totals Â£155million, we issued the following statement, none of which was referred to in The Times:
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said:
â€œIt should come as no surprise that the largest local authority spends the most on agency staff â€“ it is a simple matter of economies of scale. The figures also need to be viewed in the context of the fact we have a budget in excess of Â£3billion annually, and balance our books year-on-year.
â€œWe use agency staff for short term periods where there is insufficient capacity or expertise within the councilâ€™s own workforce.Â This can be for a range of reasons including specialist one-off technical projects or to ensure that vital front-line services such as social care, can continue to be delivered to citizens, during spells of sickness.
â€œSuch staff can also be used when services are being remodelled and in an interim state â€“ which has been increasingly the case since central government cuts began having an impact on the council.
â€œWe operate an Agency Gateway approvals process to ensure that agency staff are only recruited when absolutely necessary.
â€œSchools manage their own staffing requirements which may also require the use of agency staff. This is not something the council can directly influence.â€