Lambeth Council has been praised by local government spending watchdog The Audit Commission for the way it has tackled cuts to its funding by reducing its reliance on temporary staff.
Lambeth has saved around £18 million since 2009 by cutting the numbers of agency staff working for the council from over 900 to under 300 in April 2011.
By carefully managing the process, the council has been able to make financial savings without damaging the key services that it provides to residents.
The savings are being made at a time when government funding cuts have left the council needing to save approximately £40 million this year, and £94 million over the next four years.
The Audit Commission has highlighted Lambeth’s example in a new report “Work in Progress – meeting lower needs with local workforce cuts.”
Aimed at councils as employers, it shows how local authorities across England are reducing their workforce costs, highlighting councils that have done this successfully.
Cllr Jackie Meldrum, Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council, said:
“Government spending cuts have placed huge challenges on councils across the country.
“We launched a major exercise to see how we could cut staff costs without damaging services. By cutting down on agency staff in a sensible and planned way we have been able to reduce our wage bill, without hurting the services our residents rely on. We’ve also been able to avoid unnecessary redundancies.
“The success of this project has been vital because every pound we are able to save by working smarter and cutting unnecessary costs, is a pound that we can use to protect services from the cuts.”
Throughout the process, the council has worked closely with Trades Unions to ensure staff have had a clear voice. The unions have had a key role in scrutinising and challenging decisions.
The pay of senior staff has also been frozen for the past four years and the council’s Chief Executive voluntarily took a 10 per cent pay cut this year.
Lambeth is also joining up with neighbouring boroughs to share services to further reduce costs. Just this week Lambeth began a joint arrangement with Southwark to share the costs of procuring legal services, which is expected to save both councils around £100,000 a year.