Here at Parasol we were interested to see Bedford Borough Council’s approach to AWR.
As reported in their local paper recently, the Council has made 150 agency staff direct employees in response to AWR, a move it believes has saved the council £70,000 every year.
The majority of the Council’s agency workers are in refuge collection, street cleaning and ground maintenance and all at the lower end of the pay scale. There are some Council employees in higher paid positions in areas such as social care and legal services and the Council has reported that it still has 134 agency workers currently on assignment.
As well as a way of ensuring AWR compliance, the Council has also claimed that the move was part of a cost cutting exercise in order to trim the £8 million a year bill it currently has for employing agency workers.
Our challenge is has the Council actually made these savings or simply shifted the cost? Its agency bill may have fallen as a result of the move but by making the workers permanent employees the Council will undoubtedly incur additional costs elsewhere, National Insurance Contributions being just one example.
The Council has also lost the flexible element of its workforce which could have led to further savings. We all know the public sector is currently facing a huge campaign to reduce costs, year on year, as the Government looks to address the UK’s budget deficit. Any additional cuts to its funding may mean that the Council can no longer afford to employ these workers and redundancies may be required, which comes at a cost.
In the short term the Council has been able to offer permanent roles to some agency workers and has picked up some positive press coverage as a result, so far so good. However, a pessimistic view you could take is that they are simply solving one problem by storing up another for the future. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
One alternative the Council could have taken would have been to audit its entire supply chain for agency workers and identify where robust, compliant service providers, such as Parasol Group, could have stepped in to mitigate the risks associated with AWR.
What do you think? Has the Council done the right thing? Leave a comment below and gives us your view.