Islington cracks down on ICT contracting bill

Islington Council is set to create an in-house agency to reduce its ICT contracting bill, in response to a report which discovered that one member of staff has been paid through an agency for 10 years.

The council’s executive last week approved the recommendations of a report from an inquiry by the performance and scrutiny committee into the issue of the council’s bill for contracting.

It concluded that while agency spending across all departments had reduced under the current administration, it “did not consider that this had reduced to an acceptable level”.

The report said: “Whilst we accept that there will always be occasions, in certain specialist fields and where there is staff sickness, for agency staff to be employed, examples that we found of some agency staff, who had been in post for a number of years, some on salaries equivalent to chief officers, should not continue.”

The council’s digital services department was singled out for criticism over the length of time that some agency staff had been in post.

The report said: “In one particular instance an agency member of staff had been in post since 2004, which is unacceptable.”

It recommended that recommend in future, contract extensions for agency or consultancy staff going beyond an initial six month period would need sign-off by the council’s chief executive.

The committee did find that the number of contractors employed in digital services had reduced from 50 in 2010 to 18 currently.

But it said that spending on agency staff within the council as a whole was running at around £22 million a year, a figure which could be reduced by employing staff directly.

The council has the fourth highest headcount of any London council – approximately 5,000 staff – and correspondingly the fourth highest agency bill .

The report backed the idea of the council setting up an in-house employment agency aimed at providing a “more stable, committed workforce”.

It added that consideration should be given to paying a market supplement to attract staff to ‘hard to fill’ posts, rather than employing agency staff.

The committee also recommended that in future any contractors employed by the council should be required to encourage local employment.

Last week, a report released this week, found that that the public sector now accounts for 11% of all ICT consultancy roles in the UK, up from 5% in 2012.

Colin Marrs

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