UNISON has condemned a £2.3million spend on temporary agency staff by Warrington Borough Council when permanent employees are being made redundant.

Jason Horan, joint branch secretary for Unison, said: “Outrageously high figures for agency workers particularly within operations who manage the refuse collection service has a projected end of year spend of £500,000 which in the current climate of budget pressures is totally unacceptable, it also places a big question on how management are managing the service.”

There is also a projected spend of £500,000 spend in the families and wellbeing department the union says due to a lack of social workers and support workers.

“Unison has grave concerns that the Labour group has sanctioned cuts without properly thinking through the implications and left officers to reduce permanent posts at there own discretion,” added Mr Horan.

A council spokesman said the figure was a reduction on previous spending.

They added: “We actively seek to reduce agency costs wherever possible, however, the majority of these workers are used not to fill permanent posts on an ongoing basis, but rather to cover maternity leave, annual leave, sick leave and to cover vacant posts whilst we are recruiting to them.

“In terms of social workers, Warrington performs extremely well in managing to recruit and retain permanent staff, in contrast to many other councils. However, it is vital for our most vulnerable residents that when there is sickness or maternity leave, or staff move elsewhere, that we ensure we continue to provide safe services, and this does necessitate the use of some agency staff.

“Mr Horan recently raised his concerns on this matter with the council's joint consultative committee, and the council committed there and then to working with trade unions to see what else we could do to address his concerns including a meeting with the chief executive to fully explore the issue. Indeed we look forward to this next step and to further exploring the matter.”