Folkestone & Hythe District Council temporary staff costs have grown by 62% when the 2018/19 figures are compared to the 2019/20 figures. That in monetary terms is a difference of £350,533.
We strongly suspect that temporary staff costs will break the one million pound barrier by the end of the financial year on March 31st 2020.
The last time temporary staff costs broke the million pound barrier was in 2017/18.
The Council are currently trying to make efficiency savings. Efficiencies are effectively savings that come in two kinds: those you don’t necessarily have to be able to ‘bank’, and those that you do. The second being what we might actually recognise as a ‘cut’ i.e. spending less money.
A simple example is set out in the Pennington Report commissioned by the Council. This report demonstrably proves that the Council was penny wise and pound foolish with regards to money spent on East Kent Housing. This is one efficiency saving among many others. However this one has backfired spectacularly as council will have to spend millions now to rectify all the issues in their Council housing stock.
Transformation of the council is inevitable, as technology improves so less people will be needed. Our Council like many other councils begin to use Artificial Intelligence (Automation), this should create savings for the Council. Just this year Transformation Network created a league table of Councils using AI; and our Council (under its old name of Shepway) was placed at 338th position out 374 councils. Our Council use AI to help prevent fraud on Council Tax claims as we understand. Also changes in the welfare system means the Council no longer process as many housing benefit claims, so less staff are needed.
Temporary staff have been deployed across most Council departments such as finance, planning legal services garden maintenance, etc. Some areas will inevitably need temporary staff but to justify spending a million pound plus when you’re in the middle of an efficiency drive and people are losing their jobs makes little if any economic sense.
Finally, savings do not require that efficiencies be recorded net of up-front investment costs i.e. if you spend money to save money, you count the money saved but not the money spent in the process. By this logic, scrapping posts and hiring in consultants and temporary staff counts as a total saving and this is something our Council like many others will continue to do. As such we expect to see temporary staff costs to fluctuate for a few years yet.
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