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Councils spend £12m on agency staff

PUBLISHED: 07:52 16 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 October 2010

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Councils in East Anglia were last night accused of back door privatisation after it emerged they spent more than £12m on temporary or agency staff.

Councils in East Anglia were last night accused of back door privatisation after it emerged they spent more than £12m on temporary or agency staff.

Figures released to the GMB Union under the freedom of information act show that of the 19 district authorities in Norfolk Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, Peterborough topped the league spending £2.7m, followed by Cambridge, £1.9m, and then Norwich City Council, £1.1m.

In Norfolk, Broadland District Council spent the lowest amount - £185,469 while East Cambridgeshire only spent £19,947.

Two Norfolk councils, Yarmouth and West Norfolk, have yet to reply to the request.

Justin Bowden, GMB senior organiser, said spending on temporary staff represented poor value for money for council taxpayers.

“This is a horrific abuse of the public purse and is tantamount to backdoor privatisation,” he said. “GMB members working in public services are rightly appalled at the waste of public money as a result of management's failures to put in place adequate levels of permanent staff to cover services to the public.”

But councils last night insisted that temporary staff were often needed to keep services running and helped peg council tax bills.

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said employing agency staff was common practice among all local authorities.

“Because we are also a highways agency we take on staff to do highways work and that will be included in the figure,” she said. “Temporary staff are used frequently in the private sector. These are a mixture of jobs mostly on low or medium pay.

“They're often used to bridge a gap when there isn't a permanent job or they will be used prior to recruitment so that services can be maintained.”

Phil Harris, from Waveney District Council, said the authority was satisfied with its spending.

"We are content that we are in mid table and among the herd on this, although clearly we would like to be able to spend even less," he said.

William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council said: "Breckland Council is a very lean authority, having been successful in outsourcing a lot of services. Just how lean is demonstrated by the fact that we still have the lowest council tax in the country. To maintain this streamlined approach, there is greater emphasis on bringing in skills as and when they are needed through a best value approach. Sourcing skills from outside local government brings new dynamism to our organisation with people offering different skills and awareness and a fresh perspective to what we do."

Norwich - £1,099,512

Breckland - £1,081,812

Fenland - £630,370

Waveney - £621,976

North Norfolk - £567,004

St Edmundsbury - £524,019

South Norfolk - £372,000

Broadland - £185,469

East Cambridgeshire - £19,947


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