Agenda item

Further Information Requested in Relation to the Consultants and Interims


A report by the Interim Director of Change and Organisational Design responded to a request by the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 18 September 2018 whereby it was resolved a further report on consultants and interims be brought to a future meeting.


The request asked the Interim Director of Change and OD to outline the following:


1.  The possible benefits and dis-benefits of setting a ceiling for the amount consultants and interim staff are paid, reflecting the national paygrades for such work;

2.  The possibility of recruiting from outside of the Matrix agency system if the Council is unable to recruit the specialists it needs; and

3.  Adding a column into the list of interims/ consultants showing the day rates next to each post, prior to the Committee reaching any decision on the matter.


Members heard how the current agency contract is managed through Matrix SCM who operate a ‘managed service’ on the Council’s behalf, acting as a ‘broker’ with the wider recruitment market to ensure best value and the right candidates are put forward for temporary placements.  Members were advised that Matrix act in the same was as an Insurance Broker and The Council provides details of requirements, including rate and role brief for the work required and they automatically circulate those details to all agencies who are signed up to supply workers in the relevant category.


Members were informed that the net spend on interims and consultants is £46 million and the net saving to the Authority is £6.2 million. It was explained how when the Council has a short term, clearly defined piece of work to deliver which requires specialist skills, it is cost effective to bring in a company or an individual on a shorter term contract to complete the work. Members were informed that using temporary staff brings much less additional costs such as sickness, holidays pension and national insurance and the Authority are not required to continue paying them once their work is complete.


Members then heard how the Council had explored the use of fixed term contracts as an alternative but generally there is a limited scope at more senior and executive level from candidates from the interim market. Members were advised that the Council’s Senior Leadership Team had discussed the use of interims and consultants ( and wider agency use) in August and agreed some changes to the approach to manage use and costs as robustly as possible. This approach included the following measures:


·  Request for all temporary staff must be made via an online internal request approval system.

·  Implementation of a ‘cap’ on agency placements at 12 weeks – any further extensions would require a robust business case before approving.

·  It is proposed the approvers would be those currently on the vacancy ‘freeze’ panel(s) with the recommendation to include a representative from Commercial Management Service to support the panel/ approval process.

·  Posts approved for over 12 week placements (e.g. maternity cover, Interims Consultants working on specific projects) will be employed on a fixed Agency finders’ fee rate.

·  Monthly status report presented to SLT; detailing placements and associated costs.

·  Monthly status report to each DMTs, to ensure DMTs take control and that they hold managers to account for managing their temporary workforce.

·  Full time resource from Commercial Management dedicated to drive this new approach and model forward, working closely with HR and Finance.


The benefits and disadvantages to applying a payment ceiling was identified within the report. The rationale for using the Matrix contract was then explained to Members as well as the implications of operating outside of Matrix for hard to recruit roles and further implications of terminating the matrix contract.


Appendix A and B set out start dates, end dates and day rates categorised into service area and job titles for the period 2016-17 ( appendix A) and 2017-18 ( appendix B). Examples were provided to compare salaries of permanent and interim members of staff demonstrating various on costs associated with permanent members of staff.


Some Members expressed their dissatisfaction with reference to daily rates of some interims and consultants and felt the figures were excessive and unnecessary. They also expressed concerns about the length of time interims and consultants are employed at a daily rate.


Another Member agreed that not all knowledge is in one place and it is often difficult to achieve desired outcomes with limited staff and therefore interims and consultants are often necessary.


In response to a question, the Interim Director explained that a combination of factors mean that Wirral is not always a desirable place to work, some of which being it’s reputation and geographical factors. The Director for Economic and Housing Growth addressed Members to assure them that there is always clear rationale applied prior to the appointment of an interim or a consultant.


It was then moved by Councillor Chris Blakeley, seconded by Councillor Steve Williams and supported by Councillors Tony Cox, David Elderton &Kathy Hodson that:


“Committee expresses its concern at the amount and cost of interims and consultants.


Committee believes that the excessive payments to consultants is demoralising for lower paid staff.


Committee believes that a system should be introduced that involves elected members before an interim or consultant is put in place. Committee also believes that there should be a limit of 3 months on the employment of interims


We ask the LGA for a comprehensive report on this worrying matter. “


The motion was put and lost ( 5:7)


It was then moved by Councillor Steve Foulkes and seconded by Councillor Joe Bird and


Resolved (7:5) That –


It is noted that austerity and new ways of working will require temporary skills to allow the Borough to develop.


Committee note the full and frank report which will raise public interest. We welcome assurances that the business case for such expenditure has to be justified.


We would ask for further reports to this Committee and would like to monitor this issue on a regular basis to ensure absolute discipline is exercised.


We ask the LGA for a comprehensive report on this worrying matter.



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