In the past the 3 years Thanet District Council (TDC) has spent an unbelievable £5.315 million on the employment of temporary agency staff! That’s the equivalent of £34,000 per week, every week, for 3 years!
Thanet’s stupendous agency staff binge towers like a colossus over Kent’s other district councils. Its total spending during the past 3 financial years accounts for a staggering 40% of the combined £13,624 million total for the 10 district councils who replied to my information requests.
Thanet Council has lashed out almost 4 times more than its nearest comparator, Shepway Council, which spent £1.613 million on agency staff in 3years, whilst the lowest spender Ashford Council paid out just £294,286 over 3 years which is 16 times less than Thanet.
So what has this crazy amount of money been spent on? Well I’ve worked out that almost £4 million, or 75% of the total £5,313 has been spent on employing agency staff in the council’s Operational Services department which is managed by 4-day-a-week working, “oop-Norf” commuting, £101,000 salaried director, Mr Gavin Waite. My understanding is that this money is used to the pay the wages of street cleaners, refuse workers, and grounds maintenance staff.
But why? What’s the point in employing so many agency staff? Most of the jobs carried out by agency workers are year-round permanent jobs. So why does Thanet Council not employ the agency workers itself? Allowing for employment agency mark-ups/ commission surely it would be much cheaper for TDC and taxpayers to take these workers on as full-time TDC employees?
Perhaps Thanet Council has a secret policy of having a two
tier system of employment apartheid whereby blue collar staff are employed through agencies with lower pay, fewer benefits and workplace rights, than the relatively better paid, permanent, directly employed, TDC staff. Whatever the explanation might be, as a lifelong socialist, I am totally opposed to the casualization/ outsourcing of jobs. In my opinion this practice directly contributes to the large and growing low-pay scandal in Thanet where average wages are amongst some of the lowest in the country.
Which brings me nicely to my next question. What did the Labour Party under the leadership of Clive Hart and Iris Johnston do to tackle this unacceptable situation when they were running Thanet Council between 2011-15? Surely as a party committed to tackling low pay and unfair employment practices they would have tried to reduce TDC’s use of agency staff. But no they didn’t. This unfair practice actually began to grow under labour and has continued to do so ever since. I also wonder why the trade unions appear to have done very little to oppose the casualization of work at TDC? Perhaps someone could contact me to talk about it?
I would also be very interested in talking to agency staff who work for Thanet Council, so that I can gather information about how the system works and what the pros and cons might be. Ideally people working the HRGO agency. Anyone else who has information about what appears to be an excessive use of agency staff by Thanet Council please contact me too. You have my word that any discussions will be confidential and I will use the information as the basis of a future blog.
I will shortly be publishing another blog about Thanet Council’s use of employment agencies and I have some startling revelations which I am sure you be interested in.