The market is back!
To save money council spends extra £8m on wages
A PLAN to help the council save money has seen spending soar by £8 million in just two years.
Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information reveal that spending on temporary staff has almost doubled since the 2015/16 financial year – a similar rise has been experience in consultancy costs.
And sick pay has also increased to reach almost £100,000 a year.
In 2015-16, Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) spent £5,795,100.38 on consultations, but in the year 2017-18, this had risen to £9,634,295.56.
The spending on agency staff to cover vacancies had gone up from £4,017,165.64 to £7,811,563.03.
Meanwhile, as part of its
21st Century Council savings programme, redundancy costs had risen from £32,005.19 to £96,708.88.
The salary bill had remained relatively static despite the redundancies: £23,496,584.49 to £23,496,584.49.
WBC interim chief executive Manjeet Gill defended the figures, saying that the increased pressures on social care was hampering its work.
But Wokingham Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Lindsay Ferris said that it pointed to a council that was spending too much on temporary staff and accused the council of falling apart.
Ms Gill said: “Like many councils around the county we’re facing huge demands on our services. We face increased pressures in areas such as adult social care because of the rising number of older people needing care.
“This impacts on our budget as we need more staff to provide these vital services.
Ms Gill continued: “Our far reaching 21st Century Council programme is making a significant contribution to our overall plans, and we’re becoming a leaner, more efficient council costing significantly less to run.
“It’s a period of significant change for the council. Without the 21st Century Council programme we would face even more budget pressures which could affect the services we provide. The posts currently occupied on an interim basis will either disappear once the programme is fully implemented or will be subject to permanent recruitment, at the right time.
“This is a difficult time for recruitment and retention in local government and in particular in the South East.
“That said during the last year we have recruited permanently to many posts including the recent appointment of the Director of Children’s Services, due to be ratified by Council on September 20. And we will appoint a new chief executive and director of customer and localities by the end of the year.”
But Cllr Lindsay Ferris said: “We raised concerns about overspending in 21st Century Council last year. We had then been advised that there would be a £4 million saving, but it was clear that any potential saving had been delayed and there were clear overspends in 16/17 & 17/18 fiance years.
“We jokingly said the Council was Falling Apart, but now we say It has Fallen Apart.
“On the overall budget we have serious concerns that WBC may be heading in the same direction as Northamptonshire County Council.”
And Labour group leader Cllr Andy Croy added: “Local government workers have seen year after year of real terms pay cuts. This is deliberate.
The Tories hate local government and want to weaken it.
“Meanwhile, local authorities still have to provide services to local people and face a choice: leave vital posts unfilled or employ agency workers. At the same time an increased workload on remaining staff is bound to lead to increased levels of stress and sickness.
“As much as I would like to blame the incompetence of the local Tories this is more to do with the viciousness of the national party they belong to and which they campaign for.”
Customers flocked to the first Farmers’ Market to take place in the new Market Place last Thursday. Buying beans from Peter Gray from Grays Farm are Maureen and Edward Brown. Full story page 11