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Surrey interim staffing spend spirals

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Surrey CC has seen its temporary staffing bill spiral after making a series of interim appointments aimed at tackling its worsening financial situation.

In the six months after chief executive Joanna Killian took over in March 2018, LGC anaysis of council records indicate the authority signed 30 interim and temporary officer contracts totalling almost £3m.

Most of the interim roles are directly related to an ongoing transformation programme which seeks to address a budget gap that is predicted to rise to £94m in the next three years. At least £1.2m is specifically related to efforts to improve the council’s children’s services after they were rated inadequate in February 2018.

A Surrey CC spokesman said: “There are times when councils need people with specialist knowledge, skills and expertise on a short-term basis and we make great effort to select the very best. At a time of enormous change it is helping us to be more efficient and effective on behalf of our residents.”

Surrey CC signed two contracts totalling £361,000 with recruitment agency Penna to provide interim finance director Leigh Whitehouse, plus a head of finance and senior finance manager.

Penna was also awarded a £102,000 contract to provide an interim programme manager to provide “support to the council-wide transformation programme”.

The largest single contract was a £294,000 deal with leadership consultancy Gatenby Sanderson to recruit and manage adult social care director Simon White.

Gatenby Sanderson also secured a £246,000 contract to supply three interim change assistant directors to support a transformation programme within children’s services.

In total Surrey has spent £1.1m with Gatenby Sanderson and £802,000 with Penna. 

The number of interim and temporary appointments appears to have dramatically increased since Ms Killian took the helm at the authority.

Council records for the 12 months before Killian’s appointment show only one £97,000 contract was awarded for an interim assistant director.

Ms Killian, who took over from departing chief executive David McNulty, has faced a battle to turn around Surrey CC’s financial situation.

In July last year the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy published a report which concluded that Surrey CC was “in a difficult financial position” and “will not have sufficient reserves to meet its expected budget gap in 2019-20 unless it acts now”.

CIPFA predicted the council would face a funding gap of £36m in 2018-19, rising to £86m by March 2020, and to £94m by the following year.

At the time the council said it was “developing business cases to transform future services to maximise efficiency”. The council is aiming to save more than £200m from its annual budget by 2021.

David Hodge (Con) was replaced as Surrey CC leader by former Elmbridge BC leader Tim Oliver (Con) in November last year.

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