Havering Council has extended a multi-million pound contract to employ temporary workers for the next two years.

In the year up to September 2022, the council spent £24.3 million on agency workers – both general staff and consultants – making up about a tenth of its annual spending.

Havering has a contract with Matrix, an online platform that allows it to book the staff that it needs, often for departments that are reliant on short-term workers, such as social workers and planning officers.

According to a report approved by cabinet this week, the council is “committed” to using fewer agency staff and “building a stable, highly-skilled permanent workforce”.

The council first moved to Matrix in early 2021 under former Conservative leader Damian White. A report at the time said temporary workers may be “necessary or appropriate” in cases where they are only needed for a short period of time or if there are “challenges” in recruiting permanent staff.

Council leader Cllr Ray Morgon said continuing the pay rates agreed with Matrix two years ago has helped to “mitigate” wage inflation.

He added that it is “sensible” to extend the contract until 2025 while the council reorganises its teams into a “target operating model”.

Under the new model, launched under Cllr Morgon last year, the council’s various services will fall under three directorates: people, places and resources.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Havering’s chief executive Andrew Blake-Herbert said temporary workers are not being used to plug gaps created by recent redundancies.

Mr Blake-Herbert said: “No, we’ve definitely not really introduced any roles that were made redundant as part of the process that we ran through last year.

“All of those roles have been taken out of the organisation structure and they’ve not been replaced.

“I would just add in a reflection around the age profile of our workforce as well, which isn’t just a Havering issue, it’s a local government issue. 

“A large proportion of our workforce are in the later stages of their careers, if I can phrase it politely. 

“We’re making sure we’ve got that campaign around recruitment, bringing people in at an early age and taking them into the organisation.”

Under the voluntary redundancy programme introduced under Cllr White, the council planned to save £7 million by removing 400 staff roles.

At the most recent update in September last year, 51 employees came forward for redundancy and no compulsory redundancies were implemented.