High agency staff bill highlights Herefordshire’s recruitment woes

More than 100 of the total figure for the 2022/23 financial year of 233 were social workers, including five children’s social work managers, indicating the ongoing challenge the council faces recruiting in this key area.

The list also includes numerous senior staff, including three service directors, four service managers, eight section heads, four team managers and five senior lawyers.

The total figure of £17,233,065 included £12,278,796, or over 70 per cent, to one agency alone, Matrix, according to a newly published response to a freedom of information request.


For comparison, the figure for neighbouring Shropshire Council, which has nearly 70 per cent more residents, is around £12 million.

Back in March Herefordshire Council’s then cabinet member for finance Coun Liz Harvey said in reply to a formal question on how many vacancies it then had, that “a current figure cannot be provided in the time available”.

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However a two-week information-gathering exercise by the council in December 2022 found it had 260 vacant posts at the time, “of which 83 were covered by agency workers and 177 were vacancies actively being recruited into”, Coun Harvey said.

“Sometimes we need specialist advice or expertise relating to a specific project or initiative – but only for a short period of time,” she explained, adding: “In social care service areas there is a national shortage of qualified social workers prepared to work in the public sector.”

In December 2020 the council employed 1,337 staff in total, not counting school workers.

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