Croydon Council is throwing away millions of pounds of public money, paying over the odds to hire temporary staff, contractors and “interims” while in the midst of some of the worst cuts to public services ever experienced.
According to the council’s own publicly available invoices, in 2011 Croydon spent close to £20million on consultants and interim staff.
In one individual example, Inside Croydon has obtained evidence of someone being hired as the interim head of procurement, at a cost to Council Tax-payers of £765 (including VAT) PER DAY.
If paid at that rate over the course of a full year, that would mean almost £200,000 paid for the services of one individual. That is more, even, than the handsome salary paid to Croydon Council CEO Jon Rouse.
Croydon Council boasts of being an award-winning local authority where “efficiency is in our DNA”, according to the council’s deputy CEO, Nathan Elvery. It is a tasteless irony that Croydon’s interim head of procurement – a department whose principal task is to get best possible value for all council spending – has himself cost the people of Croydon quite so much. #thatissocroydon
“Interims” are supposed to be just that – short-term hires as temporary cover. But according to our council sources, Croydon Council has an ingrained culture of calling in “consultants” or hiring “interims” on an almost permanent basis, with the companies representing these individuals often issuing weekly invoices over prolonged periods.
Does using interims represent good value for money? Inside Croydon has had sight of a selection of photographs on a social media site showing the £765-per-day interim head of procurement, Paul Davies, and a large group of Croydon staff on what appears to be a light-hearted training exercise. As part of this “training”, senior figures wore silly hats and “saucy” name labels, such as “Tantric Tony”.
On this staff “Away Day”, the photographs show that the afternoon was spent playing frisbee in Lloyd Park.
None of this, of course, will be of any consolation to Croydon’s Council Tax-payers who were footing the bill, nor to the hundreds of dedicated and hard-working council staff who have lost their jobs recently on the grounds of “cost savings” and “efficiency”.
Fisher left red-faced with embarrassment
Implementation of the council’s “Step Change” policy has seen thousands of lower paid jobs cut from the council’s pay-roll, while the council’s political leaders have swung the axe through a vast swathe of public services, from road sweeping, to schools, youth service and old people’s homes, to the arts and libraries.
Yet on the upper floors of Taberner House, there remains a group of very well-paid executives who are receiving payments that would make even fat cat bankers jealous.
Twelve months ago, Croydon Council was exposed for spending £850 per day on a temporary head of the education department. Inside Croydon has obtained documents which demonstrate that this was not an isolated incident.
Outside “consultants” do not appear on the staff roster, so claims from Croydon’s hierarchy that they are cutting back on council employee numbers retain the appearance of being true.
But according to our sources, in some cases, such as in the council’s
press propaganda department, former staff members have often been re-hired on much improved daily rates.
Croydon’s brave leader, Mike Fisher, was red in the face with embarrassment at Monday night’s meeting at the Town Hall when he was confronted with direct questions about the council’s spendthrift multi-million pound payments to consultants and interims such as Paul Davies.
Lacking any answers, Fisher looked out of touch, and he pleaded to be allowed time to look in to the matter and provide a private response on his council’s spending of public money.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group on the council, chided his opposite number, maintaining that public council meetings were exactly the right place to openly discuss important matters of public accountability.
The invoice seen by Inside Croydon, for a week’s work by Paul Davies in September 2011, is just one example of Croydon Council paying well over the odds for the services of someone who might otherwise be hired long-term as an employee. While hiring consultants sees the council avoid the costs of pension packages, having to deal with an outside agency – in this case, Morgan Law (motto: “Responsible Recruiting”) – and having to pay VAT adds other costs to the council’s bills. An employee working on a similar salary scale might expect to be paid around £80,000 per year.
Under recently changed legislation, these expensive, short-term fixes can now be traced in the council’s invoices, which have to be published. Often, vital details are blacked out – redacted – leaving just the bald figures.
Looking at a sample of the invoices Croydon Council paid in 2011, the names of several key agencies and contractors keep coming up, often with claims for hefty amounts of public cash. We may have missed some, but based on publicly available figures, we found that Croydon Council spent nearly £20 million in the past 12 months on interim staff.
- Resources and customer services paid out more than £14.3 million in 2011 to Comensura, a temporary staff agency. This is mostly for lower paid, agency staff, many of whom might be readily employed by the council, for more efficient use of public funds.
- A range of Croydon Council departments, some of which have been hard-hit by the Rouse-inspired Step Change cut-backs, paid out £716,824 in 2011 to Odgers Interim (“Odgers Interim is an acknowledged leader in interim management appointments, helping clients to fill critical skills gaps with experienced interim managers” – or put another way, they charge you an arm and a leg because you failed to manager your staff properly).
- Morgan Law, the company which billed for Paul Davies as the interim head of procurement, charged a total of £131,680.33 in 2011. This may have all been for Davies, who when not playing frisbee appears to have worked just a four-day week, and even managed to have his weekly time sheet signed off by Graham Cadle without having to clock in or clock out as council staff are usually required to do.
- A total of £545,277.99 was paid out to International Resources Group (not to be confused with International Rescue) for the services of a director of “transforming our space”, and maybe others.
- An organisation called Green Park got £260,000-worth of business from Croydon Council last year, also for transforming our space. This is a Rouse-backed project to prepare staff for the move to the council’s shiny new HQ. So money very well spent, then.
- Mace, more contractors working on the new HQ, issued invoices for £780,000.
- And legal firm DHK Stallards was putting in monthly, hefty six-figure invoices to the chief executive’s department. It is understood that this may be, at least in part, the cost of managing employment tribunals. That all amounts to around £1.2 million over the year, and with further invoices from Stallard for other departments, the total spend by Croydon Council to this one legal firm in 2011 came to almost £2 million.
Inside Croydon did contact the Croydon Council propaganda office to put to them several direct questions of fact in the interests of fairness and accuracy. At time of publishing, we had yet to receive a response.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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