Sheffield Council spent nearly £100 million on consultants and agency staff amid struggles

Sheffield Council has spent nearly £100 million on consultants and agency staff over the past five years as it struggled to run services.

The council employed 366 consultancy suppliers since April 2018 at a cost of £14,269,131 and spent £84,819,192 on agency staff in the same time period, according to a new council document.

Councillor Mohammed Mahroof, who asked for the figures at a full council meeting this week, said: “In anybody’s language this is a horrendous figure for a local authority to be spending on third party people.

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People in Sheffield will be concerned about this amount of expenditure on external sources. Do we have control of this?”

Sheffield Council leader Tom Hunt Sheffield Council leader Tom Hunt
Sheffield Council leader Tom Hunt

In total, 454 council employees were made redundant in the same time period.

Council leader Tom Hunt said the authority relied on outside staff to fill gaps in skills and knowledge left from the reduced headcount because government “systematically underinvested” in the local authority over the past 13 years.

He said: “Yes, these are comprehensive and large figures. At times we have to bring in expert, technical advice that perhaps we don’t have in house. That’s where consultants can provide a very good service for this council to help us in the work that we are doing.

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“We have a duty as we go into this next budget setting process to ensure that every pound of public money is spent wisely and we set the budget for the coming years and the medium term financial analysis prudently, transparently and on a cross party basis. Every pound of public money needs to be spent wisely and it is right that we scrutinise all costs.

“These figures are looking back and I think we need to be focussed on the challenges going forward. Those challenges would be reduced if we had adequate funding from government.”

The council said it could not provide a breakdown of the costs by service area.

However, when responding to questions about rocketing spending on agency staff last year, a spokesperson at the time said: “The growth is largely down to social care and that’s because we are unable to recruit permanently. It’s basic demand and supply – there are not enough people in the market and that pushes the price up.

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“This is coupled with pandemic impact and re-focussing of council services over the last 18 months has led to an increased reliance on our temporary staffing base as we have reacted to new pressures and stretched to maintain key services to the citizens of Sheffield.”