Council accused of excessive spending on agency staff

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter 

A council has been accused of over-reliance on agency staff and consultants.

Labour-led Southwark council splurged £23.1million on agency workers and a further £1.7million on external consultants in 2023/24, compared to a total of £21.8million in the previous financial year.

A spokeswoman from the council said the local authority employs 5,209 workers on a permanent or fixed-term basis, with 865 being agency workers.

Rachel Bentley, deputy leader of Southwark’s Liberal Democrat opposition, said the council’s reliance on agency staff needed to stop. 

Cllr Bentley, who is standing as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “These costs continue to rise, whilst the council could be growing a workforce of dedicated and talented officers here in Southwark.

“This is about looking at the long term ability of the council to deliver for residents.”

Southwark Liberal Democrats is calling on the council to roll out a ‘temp to permanent’ programme, whereby staff on temporary contracts are gradually transferred to permanent contracts.

A council spokeswoman said: “The overall budget for running Southwark council exceeds £1billion and its staff are responsible for serving more than 315,000 residents, managing 54,000 properties and supporting the most vulnerable in society.

“We are seeing through a number of important change programmes to help improve our services while offering better value for money to council taxpayers, and like many large organisations we utilise consultants and agency staff on a temporary basis to achieve this.”

Pictured top: Southwark council headquarters in Tooley Street (Picture: Google Street View)

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