Browsing through my emails on a Saturday to make sure nothing important has come in is a regular function I carry out with a mug of coffee. Today, I was later than normal, but I am glad I did. As all Councillors have been sent an email post a FOI request from the Sunday Times. Their request was on the number of temporary/agency staff the council uses. This includes the total cost of these type of staff.
No matter which way you want to dress it up, Cornwall Council has and still continues to use these type of staff. The cost is not a few thousand of pounds either; It is many millions. An often used line of ‘you have to pay to get the right people’ is a little hard to swallow when some of the temporary staff are paid nearly three-times the amount an average Cornish worker gets paid a year. And this is only for a few months!
Take for instance, a person hired to be the Commercial Lead Strategic Partner in one of the biggest service sell-offs Cornwall Council has ever undertaken. From April 2012 – Mid July 2012 they were paid £67,349.35 if you add in the agency fees and other associated costs the true cost is £70,173.17 for 14 weeks work. That is nearly £5,000 per week a week. Granted, this is the top paid consultant, but many more are paid £40k plus for a similar time frame of employment.
In fact, Cornwall Council over the last 22 months a staggering £21,411,368 including all the associated costs. When I added it up, I certainly took a big gulp. The Leader has often said the Council is reducing consultants/temp/agency staff, but spending over £21m does not look like it.
Let’s just wait to hear the excuses that will come out in the next few days.
The fallout in the continuing saga of consultants at Cornwall Council continues to roll on like the preverbal snowball rolling down the hill. I am really getting really fed up with amounts we are still paying. On one hand I was asked to support cuts to the budget because of the difficult times we live in. In the end I reluctantly supported these cuts because of the severe reduction in grants from central government.
Now, I am wondering why I did, especially when you find out that we are spending millions (10s over the year) in a few short months on consultants. People are losing their jobs, not just at the council, but in all public sector jobs in Cornwall. Last year 256 people lost their jobs at Cornwall Council (outside of schools). This year a further 360 posts are to go. This might not seem a high amount until you add the 1657 post currently vacant. Near two-thousand posts lost or not filled. This shortfall of staff adds more pressure to the remaining staff.
Consultants no matter what skills they bring hardly contribute to the Cornish economy. Most will live outside of the county (and country), therefore the majority of fees paid to them will not be spent in the Cornish economy. At least by employing staff the money stays in Cornwall.
It seems the only growth sector at Cornwall Council is consultants. It is not as much as a gravy train, but caviar trains.
Graham Smith of the BBC has blogged about a staggering amount of money that has been spent by Cornwall Council on consultants in January, February and March. It is a eye watering £6,873,635. It is broken down by the following: January £1,774,978, February £1,858,619 and in March £3,240,038.
You have to ask yourself why these payments were made and who received these payments. What justification is there, and more importantly, where are the improvements that have come to about by hiring these consultants.
These question need to be answered, and I have written to the Head of Finance asking for answers to these and other questions.