A CALL to investigate how much the county council is spending on agency workers and the length of some of its ‘temporary’ contracts was rejected.

Worcestershire County Council rejected a plea by some of its Labour councillors to investigate whether the cost of agency workers on long ‘temporary’ contracts was a serious issue – particularly in light of the council’s desire to save money through a top-to-bottom restructure.

Councillor Robin Lunn, leader of the council’s Labour group, said the call was about investigating whether the council was “paying too much, for too long” to agencies for some of its workers – especially after it was revealed it paid its interim director of education Nick Wilson £823 a day for more than two years.

Cllr Lunn said he wanted to find out how long some of the council’s supposed ‘temporary’ contracts with agencies had ran for and whether it would be cheaper to employ people on short-term contracts.

He said paying higher salaries and costs to agencies for temporary staff was creating “completely avoidable reputational damage to the council” and the council should not be looking like it had something to hide.

Cllr Peter McDonald said the Conservative’s contempt for its permanent staff showed they were a “bunch of shysters” during a meeting at County Hall on Thursday (January 16).

He said the gap between the salary of agency workers and the average carer – which he claimed was the same as two-and-a-half-weeks’ worth compared to one day in some cases – “could not be justified” by the council’s Conservatives. He said it demonstrated a “cavalier attitude” to the public purse by the council.

Cllr Karen May, cabinet member for transformation and commissioning, said the appointment of the “highly skilled, experienced and invaluable” Mr Wilson was the right choice at the time.

Cllr May said Mr Wilson was instrumental in creating and launching Worcestershire Children First, the new company running children’s services, worked four days a week and received no holiday pay, pension contributions or sick pay.

“I believe the council received value for money in this appointment but most importantly, these arrangements were put in place with the aim of improving the outcomes for children and young people in Worcester,” she said. “Something I am absolutely sure the whole of the council can be supportive of.”

Cllr May said the plea to investigate the cost of agency staff was “unnecessary” and should have been made when the council agreed its scrutiny programme last year.