A Calverley and Farsley councillor has said he is “surprised that things aren’t worse than they are” when it comes to the authority’s spending on agency staff.
A recent report revealed Leeds City Council saw its spend on agency workers increase by £1.3m in just two years, at a total cost to the taxpayer of nearly £80,000-a-year per full time equivalent member of staff.
The council claimed that Covid had impacted on the council’s need to employ temporary staff, and that mark-ups charged by agencies often added to the costs.
But Coun Peter Carlill (Lab, Calverley & Farsley) made the point that, with the disruption caused by Covid in the past year, he expected the increases to be far higher.
“I am actually surprised that things haven’t got worse than they have,” he told a meeting of the council’s strategy and resources scrutiny board. “The amount of upset and unrest many of us have found in our homes I’m sure had meant that many on frontline services have meant many cannot appear for work, and we will have tried to find alternative members of staff to ensure those services continue.
“For essential services we will have to rely on agency staff at some point.”
A report by Leeds City Council officers showed how the total number of full time equivalent (FTE) staff employed via an agency stood at about 108.8. At a total cost of £8.47m, this works out at a cost to the taxpayer of £77,849-a-year for each FTE member of staff. This is not just the basic pay for staff, however, as other costs are included when employing agency staff.
Councillors heard how costs for agency workers are more expensive than direct employees, mainly due to mark ups charged by agencies, which the council says often amounts to an extra £2.50 for every £10 spent on basic pay.
It adds savings had been made since 2013, when the spend for agency workers had peaked at £16.5m.
Leeds City Council head of HR Alex Watson said: “There has been a significant reduction in the last 10 years on agency workers, but the costs have gone up (last year).
“We benefit from agency workers because they provide flexibility and cover up skills gaps where we have them.
“But there is a premium on that flexibility that they offer. When you look at that, it tends to be that it would be cheaper to employ people directly, even with their pension costs.
“It’s about having a mix of the right number of core staff and bringing in an agency worker to provide some cover. We would recommend a closer look at what is going on and what drives the demand for agency workers.”
He added that, if an agency worker is used by the council for more than 12 weeks, it should look into employing someone permanently to carry out their role.
The committee asked for further information on how and where money is spent by each council department.