Huge agency spend by Northants County Council revealed

One Angel Square in Northampton, where the county council is based
One Angel Square in Northampton, where the county council is based

Northamptonshire County Council is spending on average £900,000 a month on social workers from recruitment agencies – and spent £3.6m in the first quarter of the year on temporary staff.

The figures have been revealed in the stabilisation plan documents published yesterday (Monday) which lay out the council’s rescue plan for balancing its books this year.

The authority has been spending the bulk of agency costs in its children’s services department where just over a quarter of its 500-strong staff team are temporary.

It spent £792,000 in April this year on 171 agency staff, £961,000 in May on 161 staff and £824,000 in June on the same number of staff.

The authority is now planning to reduce the costs by a series of measures, including recruiting staff from abroad, giving agency staff permanent jobs and encouraging existing workers to refer a friend.

In total the plan lays out £18.2m of savings to be made this year across all service areas, but another further £11m is still to be found.

The report, which will be discussed by the Conservative cabinet next Tuesday (October 9), says: “The county has calculated that each member of agency staff, over a full year, costs tens of thousands of pounds more than a permanent member of staff in an equivalent role.

“Even after allowing for a bonus payment to convert temporary staff to permanent contracts an average saving of £25,000 per head has been achieved. It is proposed that action be taken in 2018/19 to further reduce the number of temporary qualified social workers in children’s services by December 31, 2018.”

The estimation is that the council can reduce agency spend by £208,000 this financial year and £1.6m next year.

The council, whose children’s department has been severely criticised in recent years, has reduced its spend from £16.4m in 2016/17.

Council leader Matt Golby was in charge of children’s services for a number of years before he stepped up to leader earlier this year.

Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra has said the council could reduce agency spend further.

He said: “I will be challenging this report and telling the council that there is more they could save. Why not be more ambitious?”