Agency workers cost Shropshire Council £1.5 million in a year
Shropshire Council spent more than £1.5 million on agency staff during the last financial year – including a social worker who was paid £54,668.
Figures obtained by the Shropshire Star reveal that the authority employed a total of 169 agency staff on a total of 204 occasions during the 12 months until April.
The council spent a total of £1,572,598 on agency workers during the 2014/15 financial year. The council's social services department was found to be the biggest user of agency staff, spending a total of £733,711 on agency social workers during the 12-month period.
Of this, £642,870 related to the children's safeguarding team, with a further £90,841 being spent on services for adults.
The council's opposition Labour group voiced concerns about the number of agency workers, questioning whether the council was getting value for money.
Labour group leader, Councillor Alan Mosley, said the number of agency workers in social care was of particular concern, and raised questions about the council's ability to provide high-quality and consistent services to some of the district's most vulnerable residents.
"There must be a thorough review about why this situation has been allowed to develop, and whether cuts in expenditure – and possibly management issues – have contributed to the dilemma. "Generally, in all areas of the council, a well-qualified, experienced and committed staff will generally provide a much higher quality service."
Shropshire Council spokeswoman Maria Jones said agency staff were used to cover short-term absences caused by sickness, vacancy through turnover and maternity leave.
"It is used to fulfil statutory and essential functions to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable people, children and adults."
She said that all spending on temporary staff was closely monitored, and could only be approved by the council member with special responsibilities for that budget.
"At times it may also be used short term, to support new developments while recruitment to new posts is undertaken. A recent example of this has been the increase in capacity following investment in integrated community services.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, come a week after it was revealed that Telford & Wrekin Council spent more than £900,000 on 79 agency staff over the same period. The authority's cabinet member for finance, Councillor Lee Carter, said the overwhelming majority of agency workers were in hard-to-recruit areas of social work.
But Telford & Wrekin Council declined to say how much money social services spent on agency workers, or how much the highest paid worker received.
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