Interim staffing costs spark war of words over Redbridge Council wages

Redbridge Townhall.

Redbridge Townhall. - Credit: Archant

Interim and agency workers are costing Redbridge almost £450,000 a month, according to one opposition councillor, but the council leader insists this will result in long-term savings of £12m a year.

Conservative Cllr Paul Canal highlighted this area of payroll spending during a debate on the decision to reduce council tax relief for the borough’s poorest citizens by 5pc at last Thursday’s town hall meeting.

Councillors voted to reduce council tax relief from 80pc to 75pc for working age households; 31 in favour, 17 against and one not voting.

“They say that this measure is going to save that £300,000,” he said.

“But they are wasting millions elsewhere.”

“They have recruited an army of senior managers costing £110,000 a week.”

Emails seen by the Recorder reveal there are 92 agency or interim workers covering senior manager positions at the council as of November 15, 2017.

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Their total cost amounts to slightly under £450,000 a week - an annual cost of more than £5million.

As of December 1, two of the posts covered by interim or agency workers are at the most senior chief officer level.

These positions were being recruited for over December and the New Year.

A breakdown of the salary bands that the workers fall into reveals that three workers cost in excess of £150,000 per year pro rata.

Fourteen workers cost more than £130,000 per year pro rata.

But council leader Cllr Jas Athwal claimed that, taking into account all forms of employment, his Labour administration will have cut the council’s wage bill by £12m a year by the end of its four year term.

He said: “We make no apologies for hiring experienced and effective interim staff to come in for a fixed period and complete tasks as we continue on the journey to provide value for money.

“It’s a real shame that Cllr Canal uses hard working staff as pawns for his political means. If he thinks this saving is bad, perhaps he can tell us how he will achieve that saving of £60m over five years without cutting services.”