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Council chiefs accused as staff costs revealed
2:00pm Wednesday 20th June 2012 in News
STAFFING costs at Worcester City Council came in £176,000 below budget last year – leading to claims bosses are deliberately dragging their feet over filling vacancies.
Nine different departments underspent on wages, despite the national unemployment rate hovering at a 17-year high.
The biggest underspend was in the performance, innovation and efficiency department, which underspent by £67,000.
That department includes shared services, IT, Worcester City Museum, the hub and the PR and marketing functions.
The cleaner and greener department, which deals with services including bin rounds and parks maintenance, underspent by £31,000.
Another notable underspend was in business engagement – the staff who aim to encourage more firms to invest in Worcester – which underspent by £18,000.
The figures were criticised during a meeting of the authority’s performance management and budget scrutiny committee.
Councillor Richard Boorn said: “A re-occuring theme with all this is that there seems to be a constant recruitment drag going on.
“Should we not be setting targets of how quickly we can employ people? We’ve reached a 17-year unemployment high yet we cannot seem to find people to fill jobs.
“It just does not seem right at all.”
Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the city council, said: “I can assure people there is absolutely no wish to delay recruitment, there isn’t a deliberate policy to do that at all.”
Julie Slatter, service manager for performance, improvement and efficiency said: “We’ve had an unusual set of circumstances over the last year, people have moved on, we’ve had some restructuring.
“With posts that become vacant, we’ve took the opportunity to look at each one and say, ‘Do we still need it, does it need to change, do we need to look at this as a chance to make a saving’, and we’ve had to do that due to the financial climate we’re in.
“When we do recruit we’ve also got to find the right people and give them the chance to work their notice period.
“It’s more that as opposed to a deliberate policy.”
The council, which paid out £10.2 million in wages during the 2011/12 financial year, employs 378 staff.
That figure has dropped from 435 in 2010, mainly due to people not being replaced after they leave.