29 March 2007 | Paul Snell
Spending on temporary and agency staff in government departments has risen by 1,400 per cent on average since 1997, according to a report from a Conservative MP.Gershon But Not Forgotten
, released last week by MP Grant Shapps, said: "Temporary staff are being brought in to do the work previously done by staff axed as part of the Gershon efficiency review."
It said total spend on temporary and agency staff had increased from just over £117 million in 2004-2005, to £138.5 million in 2005-2006. The report also predicted that the total spend would rise again in 2006-2007, to nearly £159 million.
Average spend across Whitehall departments rose from £272,891 in 1997-1998 to £3.8 million in 2006-2007. Shapps, who collected the information from parliamentary questions, the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Office for National Statistics, said: "The truth is that no sooner have employees been shown the front door, large numbers of temporary and agency staff are smuggled in by the back door."
The report said spending continued to grow at 15 per cent each year. It used the example of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which spent five times more on temporary staff in 2005-2006 than in 2001-02.
A recent NAO report into headcount reductions found there had not been significant increases in the number of staff substitutes.
An OGC spokesman said: "Skills are often not available in that team, or skills can be used for a short period of time. When used appropriately [temporary staff] can be of great benefit to the public purse."
Shapps told SM
: "One suspects there are other motives that are more to do with claiming a reduction in staff."