A TEMPORARY member of staff hired by Dorset County Council cost more than its chief executive, an investigation has found.

The IT worker cost more than £167,000 to hire through an agency – £20,000 more than the chief executive David Jenkins earned and almost £25,000 more than Prime Minister David Cameron.

A Dorset Echo probe has revealed the authority has been paying through the nose for staff on short term contracts when it has been making savage cuts to services and shedding jobs.

A recruitment freeze has been in place at County Hall in a bid to save money – but council chiefs have been recruiting agency staff at sky-high rates to work on what it describes as ‘specialist projects’.

Savings worth £15m have been identified in the council’s budget this year as the authority tightens its belt in light of government cuts. Last year the council made £28m worth of savings.

The authority has seen a reduction in 500 full-time posts in recent times through a combination of freezing vacancies, voluntary redundancies and compulsory redundancies.

County council chiefs have defended their strategy on agency staff.

But urgent questions were being asked today as unions condemned the actions as ‘outrageous’.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act about the council’s three top temporary earners reveal that in one year £167,081.76 was paid out for an IT services project manager including an agency fee of 16 per cent. The manager was employed from September 2009 to April 2011.

An IT services project manager would usually receive between £41,616 and £46,461.

The amount paid out for the temporary manager over one year is substantially higher than DCC’s top earner, chief executive David Jenkins who receives a salary of £147,875.

Prime Minister David Cameron receives a salary of £142,500.

Other top temporary earners include a principal manager for highways and transportation which cost the council £93,259.98 in 2010/11.

The usual salary for this role is between £45,575 and £50,912.

Council Lib Dem leader Janet Dover said: “This news, which I am grateful to the Dorset Echo for highlighting, is extremely worrying and I will be taking this up with the chief executive as a matter of urgency.

“These figures are extraordinary.”

Coun Dover added: “It is important that councillors know how much agency staff are costing. As this investigation has shown, it is not an obvious cost.

“I accept there may be specialist roles we need to recruit for but we need to find out the detail behind these figures and urgent questions need to be asked.

“People will be disappointed to know that at a time of austerity the council is spending this amount of money. Words fail me.”

'Outrageous amount of money'

Branch secretary of the Dorset branch of Unison Pamela Jefferies said: “Apart from being an outrageous amount of money to spend on a project manager, it highlights the argument for retaining public services in-house if this is what outsourcing to the private sector could mean for the council.

“I think it shows what good value for money staff and public services are.

“The private sector makes ‘good money’ from public services and this is why cutting funding to the public sector is having such effects.”

Mike Chaney, spokesman for the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries (Ad Lib) which has been campaigning to protect libraries in the wake of council cuts, said: “It’s a terrible irony that our libraries have to be closed to save money yet the council is using, if not wasting, money in other ways.”