A waste of money?

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WIGAN Council has spent tens of thousands of pounds recruiting just three members of staff, we can reveal.

Metro bosses paid £38,000 to Leeds-based consultants Gatenby Sanderson as they sought to fill three vacant director posts in the last three years.

The positions were Director of Children & Young People’s Services (CYPS) in April 2007, CYPS Service Director for Transformation in August 2008, and CYPS Service Director for Strategy & Commissioning in August 2008.

The figures, obtained by the Wigan Observer under the Freedom of Information Act, have emerged as the council embarks on a major cost-cutting programme, with up to 820 jobs under threat and savings of £55 million in the next three years.

Town hall chiefs have been told to lose a massive £20m from their budget next year alone.

The council today defended the payments and refused to rule out the use of external recruitment firms in the future.

Wigan Council’s Executive Director of Business Support Services, David Smith said: “The general principle adopted by Wigan Council is to recruit using our in-house agency where possible because this is the most cost-effective way.

“We used this route to appoint to posts across the council including for our current chief executive.

“There are exceptions to this rule however.

“The three examples are all director-level appointments and in such cases the nature of the market and the demand for the best candidates makes it necessary for the council to seek specialist help in attracting them.

“In each case the recruitment process went out to tender and the company offering the council the best value for money was chosen.

“If Wigan Council is to continue to attract the best we cannot rule out using external recruitment agencies again in the future but this would only be for a very small number of cases.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has told Wigan Council that its spending power will be lopped by a massive 6.4 per cent – way above the 4.4 per cent national average.

The council has already begun cutting jobs to cope with the public spending squeeze.

Measures taken to slash costs have included:

A process to reduce the number of council staff by as much as 820 over the next two years.

A significant review of spending on the capital programme.

A 20 per cent reduction in senior management costs, which have included the loss of 15 posts and a saving of more than £1m.

More than 200 staff have been granted voluntary redundancy in the first round of local government cuts.

However, the initial scheme was massively over subscribed, with 428 workers applying.

Council chiefs say 225 workers have been accepted for voluntary severance terms.

Of these, 37 have successfully applied to start a more gradual ‘wind-down’ through flexible retirement and reduced-hours programmes.