Wage bill spirals as hundreds of jobs created

SUFFOLK’S county wage spill is set to soar by more than �25 million last year - as it created 500 new jobs without anyone noticing!

The number includes 270 taken on to run the new children’s centres - a scheme fully funded by central government.

But a further 230 posts have been created at Endeavour House - in services ranging from adult care to environment and transport and resource management (deciding which departments get the money).

The figures were unearthed by the opposition Liberal Democrats who compared this year’s budget with previous years.

The figures in this year’s budget document shows the council expects to employ 6,380.5 full time equivalent staff on April 1 this year and 6,362.5 on March 31 next year.

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The figure does not include teachers.

However when the Liberal Democrats compared the figures with this time last year, they found that on April 1 2009 the council employed 5,875.8 and it expected to employ 5,854 by the end of next month.

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Opposition leader Kathy Pollard said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw these figures.

“If we look more closely we see that the increase in staff in service offices has gone up by nearly 100, now service offices, surely they aren’t frontline staff.”

It also showed that the total cost of employees in 2009/10 was �222.6 million while in the next financial year it is expected to be �248 million - an 11% rise.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Pollard said: “These figures are extraordinary and what is even more extraordinary is that the administration cannot really account for them.

“They say they are very efficient but these sums just don’t add up.”

The county had expected to lose three posts in its children and young people’s department this year - in fact the number increased by 281, larger even than the 270 taken on to run the children’s centres.

The county took on an extra 24 people to provide front-line adult and community services - pushing the number up from 2,242 to 2,266 (an increase of just over 1%) but saw the number of administrators for the department increase from 50 to 114 (an increase of 128%).

Council deputy leader Jane Storey presented the budget and said the increases were in line with the council’s “Securing the Future” project which was launched in 2007 with the aim of improving council efficiency.

She said some of the increasing numbers was to better serve the increasing number of older people needing county council services.

She said: “We are investing in the service improvements and remain a very efficient local authority.”

Some of the departmental increases had occured because jobs had been reclassified or moved from one department to another.

And some new people had been taken on to run services which were being sold on to other organisations and local authorities - like catering and ground maintenance.

During the debate councillors approved the budget which will see the county element of council tax bills - about two thirds of the total - increase by just 2.4% next year.

Mrs Storey said this was the smallest increase ever seen at the county council - and compared it with the 18.5% rise put forward by the previous Labour/LibDem administration.

Labour leader Sandy Martin warned that spending should be targeted on the most needy members of society in the county - and on town roads.

He said: “Are you targeting maintenance at the most appallingly-broken estate roads - many of them estate roads in urban areas - or lightly-used roads in rural areas in preference?”

But council leader Jeremy Pembroke provided a robust defence of the authority.

He said: “We have been marked the second most efficient county council in the country after Kent. I am very proud of the fact that this county is one of the most efficient in England.”

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