The Cabinet Office infrequently monitors temporary staff who are on very high rates
A report released today by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that annual spending on government consultants and temporary staff has gone up by between £400 million and £600 million since 2011-12, while departments were reducing their permanent workforce.
While consultants and temporary staff can be an important source of specialist skills and capabilities for departments that need to transform their working models, they can cost up to twice as much as their nearest permanent counterpart.
In 2010, strict spending controls were introduced to help tackle the problem, but spending is now increasing again, suggesting that underlying problems have not been fixed.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said that professional workforce planning to address skills and capacity gaps was essential to drive down dependency on expensive consultants and temporary staff. The NAO research also suggests that the high costs could be partially reduced by better management.
For example, the Cabinet Office recommends that consultancy assignments be paid according to a fixed price or on delivery of pre-agreed outcomes, rather than a daily rate, but only around half were in 2014-15. In addition, the Cabinet Office infrequently monitors temporary staff who are on very high rates.
As of 1 May 2015, 47 temporary staff were engaged on a daily rate of over £1,000, compared with 30 senior civil servants with comparable pay. But neither CCS nor the Cabinet Office and Defra actively manage the numbers of temporary staff who have been in post for extended periods.
Responding to the report Tom Watson MP, Labour’s deputy leader and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said:
“Spending on consultants and temporary staff is rising at an alarming rate and the Government has to get a grip on costs.
“Government departments shouldn’t pay above the market rate for staff but this report makes it clear they are still far too reliant on expensive temporary workers.
“Consultants can do valuable work but Cabinet Office rules on how they should be paid are being broken, departments are failing to get the best price and the taxpayer is losing out as a result.
“The government is failing on its own terms.”
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward