The Employee Relations and Policy Manager presented a report regarding the Council’s temporary workers. The Council had awarded a contract to the Matrix Employment Agency in June 2020 and in this quarter, the Council had made savings in excess of £186K and work continued to generate further savings in agency fees. The contract was managed in line with the agreed key performance indicators (KPI’s) as set out in Appendix 2 to the report. In this quarter all the KPI’s were achieved with the exception of Early Years (65%). This was due to the main supplier voluntarily withdrawing from Matrix due to non-compliance of contract.
Referring specifically to the usage of temporary labour the total spend for this quarter was £3.4 million a decrease of £ 84,452, but £10,174 less than the previous quarter. The total hours of 3,011 were 75 hours reduction compared to the last quarter. The key outliners were Finance & Resources; Adults (Operations); Place and Development and Regeneration Directorate who had made combined savings of £160,359.
Members were informed that despite savings in Finance and Housing services, there had been an increase in agency spend since last quarter due to increase in activity related to the current financial position of the council. Overall, the council had achieved £186,337 which equated to a 5.29% saving and increases of 0.39% in total savings, compared to last quarter.
It was anticipated that the savings trend would continue as a number of agency contracts were coming to an end and that this would be reflected in the report for the next quarter. Further work continued with each directorate to provide business cases to engage or renew request for agency workers. The business case requests were subject to scrutiny by Executive Management Board before approval was granted.
Members raised a number of points in the ensuing discussion, including concern relating to the quality of work being performed by temporary workers and frustration that once individuals had left the authority there was no recourse in terms of accountability. In addition, was there a proper handover process when temporary workers left to ensure continuity of service. It was explained that agency workers were subject to the proper checks and balances prior to appointment and work was monitored by service areas to ensure objectives were being met and delivered. Joint monitoring meetings entailed a scrutiny process of overseeing the performance of agency workers and clauses in the Matrix contract allowed any issues to be raised and reported. As the Council moved towards becoming a performance organisation, there would be an expectation of greater accountability and audit trails.
The total net savings in spend on temporary workers were driven by the previous quarter differences and it was agreed that details of total agency spend for the previous two quarters would be circulated to the Committee for information.
Referring specifically to IT related jobs, a member queried why the Council not recruit directly from the open market. It was explained that some staff were sourced for specific long-term projects requiring specialist areas of expertise and that there was a need to keep pace with developments and changes in IT infrastructure.
Following the issuing of the Section 114 Notice in May 2021, Members stated that they had been informed that specialist additional support would be provided in the finance and governance teams within the Council; and asked for details of costs of additional resources to the finance team including the number of individuals employed, salary costs and duration of contracts. It was agreed that this information would be circulated after the meeting.
The wellbeing of employees was raised and it was outlined that HR had provided wellbeing support to staff to ensure they had the capacity and mental health resilience during and after the transformation programme. In terms of accountability, any learning would be escalated to senior colleagues and focussed and targeted work would be carried out by the Learning and Development team.
In order to achieve additional efficiencies, the Council had transferred some functions to CDL, which was a direct client of Matrix. These included the direct on-costs all of which added up. The CDL process allowed the Council to reduce those fees previously paid to the agency.
Responding to whether further savings could be made by offering permanent contracts to agency workers, it was explained that as part of the transformation programme, vacant posts were reviewed on a monthly basis. It was noted that temporary employees often did not want to be employed on a permanent basis.
It was suggested that the Council recruit from local colleges and universities and the Committee were informed that prior to the pandemic, the Council did partner with colleges, universities and job fairs in the wider market. However, it was important to note that newly qualified candidates were often lacking in experience and were not always the ideal candidate. Upskilling current staff was also proposed as an initiative to develop and retain existing staff and it was outlined that upskilling was a long term process and there was often an immediate need or the work was business-critical.
Members discussed the Matrix contract and were informed that this was reviewed on both a quarterly and monthly basis to ensure value for money and if KPI’s were not met then there were penalties built into the contract.
The Committee requested that the October report include details of the procurement process undertaken in appointing Matrix SCM as the Council’s agency staff provider, duration of the contract and details of performance related clauses within the contract.
Resolved – That the report be noted.