By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham City Council now expects to spend up to £1.4m to recruit agency workers in key departments due to a “sharp rise in demand”.
Adult social care and children’s services are seeing some of the most serious shortages.
A “significant number” of agency staff are being employed in both areas to bridge gaps.
Last year the Labour-run authority approved a spend of £750,000 to cover agency costs across all departments, while the contract to manage and deliver agency staff was put back out to market.
But due to further shortages the council now needs a further £650,000, meaning the overall costs have risen to £1.4m.
The approval of the sum was made in a delegated decision, meaning it was done outside a council meeting.
Council documents state: “There was a decision taken to Commissioning and
Procurement Executive Board dated 14th June 2022, requesting £750K to cover projected agency costs from 18th August to mid-November to allow for re-tendering of the contract, with a ‘go live’ date of 19th November.
“Finance colleagues have advised that due to a sharp rise in agency demand, there remains a further shortfall based on current usage and that a further increase of up to £650,000 is now required to cover the period to the 19th November 2022.”
The costs follow millions of pounds already spent on external consultants as part of an improvement plan, which began upon the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.
Rapid changes must now be made or the Government may intervene further, meaning the council has been spending money on consultants and agency staff to make sure improvements are made quickly and services continue to be delivered.
So far £5.5m has been spent on consultants, alongside a further £6.5m on support to improve failing children’s services, because the authority does not have sufficient internal expertise.
The council’s reputation, difficult labour market conditions, a mass staff exodus for better pay in the private sector have all been cited as reasons behind the need for agency workers and external support.
A City Council spokesman added: “We have re-tendered for a new managed service provider contract which allows us to engage agency workers in specialist and executive roles, increasing the overall potential spend through this contract which explains some of the increase in value.
“Agency costs for the council have also risen on an operational level in the last year due to pressures in social care, where there is a national shortage with significant difficulties recruiting and retaining social workers and care workers, along with a pressurised health and social care system and seasonal challenges resulting in workforce absences.
“The increase from £750k to £1.4m reflects the requirement for agency workers within the overall value of the previous contract.”