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Staffing crisis costs council £11.9m in agency posts

The incoming Liberal Democrat administration at West Berkshire Council will inherit a £4.7m overspend.

Cash reserves are being used to reduce that figure, leaving around £7.2m in the bank.

But staffing issues are costing the council £11.9m in agency fees – that is 17 per cent of its wages budget.

West Berkshire Council
West Berkshire Council

The total employee spend including agency was £73.8m against a budget of £69.6m, an overspend of £3.9m.

The overspend has increased by £0.6m from last quarter – partly due to the pay award.

Provision was made in the budget for an increase of two per cent, but the actual pay award was £1,925 per full-time employee, which equates to an average percentage increase of approximately 5.5 per cent.

The revenue budget for the year of £143.8m was set in March last year.

Adult social care and children and family services are £2.9m overspent, with education £1.3m over budget – mostly down to home to school transport with more children with special needs requiring transport.

The council reports a £2,2m overspend in care homes due to agency staffing requirements, the number of high dependency clients and rises in energy costs.

In the planning department, there are £172,000 of agency and consultant pressures from covering sickness and vacancies and the service struggling to recruit qualified permanent staff.

Car parking and season ticket income has significantly reduced compared to pre-pandemic levels leaving a shortfall of £1m.

Waste management saw increased levels of recycling income and reduced use of landfill saving £570,000.

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