A Freedom of Information request to has detailed the scale of employment agencies use by Wrexham Council over a four year period and the amounts paid in redundancy.
The FOI placed by Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru’s Wrexham chairperson, covered a range of topics over redundancies and job losses at Wrexham Council between April 2012 and April 2016.
The response by Wrexham Council seen by Wrexham.com lists 44 employment agencies used by the council with a grand total of £2,214,962 spent to them. The highest payment was to Clockwork Organisation t/a Travail Employment Group at £643k and the lowest was just £149.89 to Coyle Personnel PLC in Harrow.
The response notes Wrexham Council employs 5447 members of staff, with 2460 non-education related areas, with 408 in the Education Department and 2820 in schools.
The council say they had 99 active agency worker placements as of 19th December 2016, with the following break down:
The FOI also shows a very long definition of ‘temporary’, at just under four years.
The FOI also queried how much was paid out in lump sums to those made redundant, with Wrexham Council replying: “The number of voluntary and compulsory redundancies during this period was 522. The lump sums paid to them totalled £6,715,133.”
Marc Jones said: “Wrexham Council has spent millions on paying redundancy money – £6.7 million in the past four years alone for 700 staff – and then takes on nearly 100 people through agencies.
“There may be a good reason why they should do that in exceptional cases and as a temporary measure but having people on ‘temporary’ contracts for four years is very odd, to say the least.
Marc Jones also pointed out that he was ‘disappointed’ to see ‘just one Wrexham-based agency in the top 20’ of agency spending, with GAP Personnel who have their HQ in Wrexham seeing £6k of Council spend.
In the climate of cuts he said: “Many of these agencies specialise in social work and social care, yet Wrexham Council closed Nant Silyn care home stating there was no demand.
“I think people facing more and more council cuts are entitled to ask what we’re getting for our money from these agency workers that we couldn’t get from council employees. We’re also entitled to know whether Wrexham Council is looking to expand its use of agency workers and further reduce direct staffing.”
We asked Wrexham Council on the nature of the four year temp, and asked for detail as to why that was more appropriate than a permanent contract. We asked a similar query on the two year seven month contract via an agency.
Cllr Bob Dutton, Lead Member for Corporate Services and Health and Safety, said: “The assumption that the authority has lost nearly 700 staff to redundancy is incorrect as the figure includes those who have left for any other reasons as well, including promotion, moving elsewhere,etc.
“The amount of redundancies has increased in line with our Reshaping programme, as a result of which the amount paid out to those taking redundancy also increased.
“As for the temporary four year contract cited, a temporary post can be extended – many are subject to grant funding and specific projects, and as such may be extended to a longer duration.
We also asked for comment over the remarks made on the sourcing of more local agencies. Cllr Dutton said: “Regarding our use of organisations based outside of the Wrexham area, while the headquarters of such large, national organisations may be based in other urban centres, the workers registered on their books will live in Wrexham and neighbouring North Wales authorities.
“I would also add that some agencies specialise in finding workers with particular professional skills, and as such it is necessary to make use of them to source workers with particular qualifications or expertise.
“We have guidelines for the use of agency workers, and through procurement a single contract in place to ensure we have agreed rates etc.
“An agency worker is normally only used to cover short-term ad-hoc cover, pending recruitment, or in cases when we are unable to recruit a specialist skill, it is not a replacement for employing staff to posts in departmental structures.”