In a report issued by the National Audit Office (NAO), it has been revealed that £1.3 billion is being spent by central Government on temporary staff and consultants. With some short-term employees receiving as much as £1,000 a day, these costs have risen over the past three years since they were originally cut in 2010 for austerity measures.
The findings noted that there are 47 specialists who are receiving over £1,000 a day, including five in the Department for Education, seven in the Department for Business, ten in Revenue and Customs and eleven in the Department for Transport. The calculations carried out by the auditors uncovered that these workers on temporary contracts are being paid double what their civil service equivalents would receive.
The department that has come under most criticism is the Home Office as it was found that 80 per cent of the temporary workforce within this department has been there for over a year, with one of them receiving £1.4m over a period of seven years despite being on an impermanent contract for the entire time.
Since 2011/12, the amount spent on consultants and temporary employees has risen by £600 million with the ministers involved being blamed for acting “fast and loose” with public money. The evidence revealed in this latest study has angered many unions and MPs as they feel that the Government is being frivolous with public money to satisfy short-term needs.
It is also predicted that this expenditure could continue to rise following George Osborne’s 2015 spending review in which cost-cutting transformation projects are being implemented within many departments. This means they have to find short-term solutions for their requirements, with much of this consultancy work being secured by large accounting firms including Ernst & Young, Deloitte and Price Waterhouse Coopers.
The report detailed that the Government did manage to reduce spending costs on temporary staffing needs, with a reduction of £1.5 billion from 2009-10 to 2014-15. However, since 2011-12 the spending has once again increased from £400 million to £600 million, suggesting that the cutbacks were short-term and not a sustainable approach.
It went on to say that, in the interim, consultants are being brought in to help bridge the shortfall of skills found in the civil service but that departments need a long-term strategy where they continue to train and develop personnel in order to reduce this need for external staff.
Many of the unions believe that due to spending targets enforced by the Treasury, departments are unable to effectively plan their staffing solutions. A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office stated that the outlay on temporary employees was still less than that which was found in 2009-10 and that the current expenses are needed whilst the Government works through transformation. She indicated that the skills required cannot currently be found within the civil service.
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