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Suffolk County Council reduces temporary staff bill but still spends £6.5m in a year

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Spending on temporary staff at Suffolk County Council has been reduced but the authority still spent £6.5 million on temps in 12 months.

The cash-strapped authority, which had to plug a £5.9 million gap in its finances last year from reserves, reduced its spending on temporary staff and contractors by £153,504 in the three months to October compared with the previous three month period, latest figures show.

But it still shelled out £1.4 million in paying for temporary staff from July to September, according to data compiled for this week’s scrutiny committee. In the 12 months up to October, temporary staff spend was at £6.5 million.

Endeavour House, Ipswich (9934274)
Endeavour House, Ipswich (9934274)

Cllr Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “The council’s business plan for 2019/20 sets out to continue reducing Suffolk County Council’s annual spend on temporary staff and contractors. This was successful in 2017/18, and the latest figures show that this is also being successful for 2018/19."

While there were increases in spend in adult and community services and Trading Standards, the authority significantly scaled back temp staff in health and children’s services (down £95,000) and slashed corporate services temp spend by £113,000 – just over a third.

Adult and community services increased their reliance on temporary staff by nearly £78,000 – an increase of 35 per cent, which finance chiefs said was due to increased spend on technical project managers and training roles for contract management staff.

But Labour group leader Sarah Adams warned that the numbers were still 'ridiculously high'.

“It is welcome that there has been a small reduction in the spend on temporary staff and contractors, but I don’t think there is a huge cause for celebration just yet,” she said.

Final overspend numbers for the 2018/19 year are set to be published in June, but latest estimates from February indicated the council was on course for a £5.9 million overspend to be covered from council reserves.