Croydon Council still has a long way to go if it is to make the £100 million austerity cuts required by the Conservative Government, after it was reported this week that it will make savings of £3.3 million from making 76 staff redundant.
Achieving that budget target won’t be made any easier after it was decided, meanwhile, to spend £9 million on hiring agency staff – mainly social workers.
The figures were released at a cabinet meeting last week. It is six months since the council offered redundancy terms across its entire 10,000-strong workforce. The meeting agreed to extend the contract of Comensura, the company that provides agency staff to the council.
“There is a shortage of permanent social workers in London so we have no choice,” was the explanation offered by Simon Hall, the cabinet member in charge of finances for the Labour-run council, to the Croydon Guardian. “That is the reality of the marketplace we are trying to deal with.”
Despite the apparent contradiction of paying millions for expensive agency workers while laying off permanent staff, Hall said that the contract workers are only being used where a vacancy exists and no suitable permanent candidate can be found. No one was allowed to take redundancy “where their position was going to be necessary going forward”, Hall said.
The council has spent about £20 million on agency workers in the last year – more than half of it on social care services.
Of course, Croydon’s Labour council might go a long way to solving its funding crisis, at a stroke, if it undertook to fulfil its pre-election promise of investigating how its council offices on Cost A Mint Walk managed to cost more than £100 million more than similar office builds elsewhere in London.
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