Agency costs down, overtime up at DfE

Agency costs down, overtime up at DfE

Department for Education (DfE) staff are working more overtime as the government department seeks to reduce its spend on agency staff and external consultants

According to workforce management information published by the Department, overtime payments steadily increased towards the end of 2014, rising from £37,437 in September to £51,729 in November.

It comes after the DfE’s overall full-time equivalent (FTE) staff numbers fell to 2,187 in November, down from 2,298 in the same period in 2013. It also follows a reduction in spending on agency staff, interim managers, specialist contractors and consultants.

Kathy Prendiville, an industrial officer with the PCS union, said: “It is hardly surprising that, having cut the department by nearly 50 per cent over the last four years, we find overtime increasing.

“This, alongside consultancy and agency costs, which are still too high, merely masks what is essentially an under-resourced department, all in the name of austerity.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Since 2010, we have delivered huge savings for the taxpayer, reducing administration costs by £120 million a year. Staff numbers have fallen by 40 per cent over the same period.

“Our staff survey shows our staff are more motivated and engaged than before. Results have improved in every category over the last 12 months.

“Overtime is paid if staff need to do extra work to complete specific tasks.”

The data also shows the Education Funding Agency’s (EFA) workforce continues to grow as it seeks to meet the increasing demands of its extra responsibilities, which include consolidating academy trust accounts into its own financial statements and finding sites for new free schools.

The EFA had 865 FTE staff in November 2013, which rose to 1,007 by the same month in 2014.

Concerns were raised about the EFA’s capacity in a National Audit Office (NAO) report in January 2014.

The NAO’s auditor general, Amyas Morse, warned at the time the funding agency needed to “bring together its existing improvement plans and quickly implement an operating model capable of dealing with the new demands”.

He added: “Our experience of similar bodies in other sectors suggests that the agency might otherwise become overloaded, to the detriment of its own performance and risking value-for-money across the education system.”