Unison said figures showed that Lambeth’s spending on agency workers had increased by 35 per cent in the last year, from 483 in 2014 to 635 at present.
Branch Secretary Jon Rogers said that, using council statistics, it was estimated that Lambeth is now spending at least half a million pounds a week on agency workers.According to the union, spending “is spiralling out of control”.
Rogers said: “With the council facing massive cuts in funding from the government it is completely unacceptable that Lambeth is spending more and more on agency workers while staff are at risk of redundancy. We don’t accept the need for redundancies and cuts in services while the council is pouring money into the coffers of the employment agencies.”
Unison said it is calling upon Labour councillors to work closely with the trade unions to bring down the use of these workers.
However, the council says the situation is more complex than Unison has suggested.
Councillor Paul McGlone, Lambeth’s deputy leader, said: “In some employment areas, such as social work for example, Lambeth, along with other councils, struggles to recruit permanent qualified social workers as there is a national shortage of suitable candidates.
“This means we need to supplement our permanent staffing with qualified agency workers as a means of covering vacant posts and ensuring that the delivery of essential services is maintained to vulnerable children and adults.
“The last thing I want at Lambeth council is job losses and budget cuts. But the financial realities we face mean that redundancies, cuts and the use of agency workers play a role in best delivering essential services and helping us deliver a balanced budget – as required by law.
“I’ve met with local Unison representatives and those of other unions to explain the very difficult financial situation and complex staffing challenges Lambeth council faces. That dialogue will continue.”