Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a joint report by the Legal and Procurement Operations Manager & Category Manager (Professional Services) Collaborative Procurement Service (copy attached) on the procurement exercise undertaken for the provision of a managed service for the supply of agency workers for the Council, including potential alternative options that may be available, and formulate a recommendation to Cabinet to appoint a provider to supply agency staff for use across Council Services.


11:25 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Introducing the Legal and Procurement Operations Manager and Category Manager (Professional Services) Collaborative Procurement Service’s joint report (previously circulated) the Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Assets advised members that the report was being presented to the Committee at Cabinet’s request. 


During his introduction the Lead Member advised that approximately 10 years ago the Council, for best value purposes, entered into a Framework agreement for the purpose of employing temporary staff.  As the Council now operated a joint Procurement Service with Flintshire County Council both authorities had decided to align its current Framework contract end dates to enable them to jointly go out to tender on a new Framework to commence on a mutually convenient date with a view to realising maximum financial benefits for both councils. 


Cabinet when considering whether to approve the commencement of a procurement exercise with a view to entering into a contract to appoint an agency to supply temporary staff for use by the Council at its December 2017 meeting requested Scrutiny to examine in detail the following areas associated with the Framework and appointment of an agency to undertake this work:

·         comparative data on Denbighshire and Flintshire’s spending on agency staff in recent years;

·         Denbighshire’s spend prior to the commencement of the current Matrix agency contract and its spend with Matrix under a previous contract up until 2014;

·         comparative details on rates of pay and conditions of service for the Council’s permanent staff and those employed via an agency to undertake the same duties;

·         potential alternative solutions to the Framework which were available for sourcing temporary staff at short notice; and

·         the reasons why the Council required to use agency staff.


The requested data was included in the report and associated appendices and the Lead Member detailed their contents to Committee members prior to inviting questions.  He advised that Cabinet had instructed officers to commence the tender process on the understanding that Scrutiny report its findings to Cabinet prior to it being asked to appoint a provider.  The procurement exercise would be commenced using the Eastern Shires Procurement Order (ESPO) MSTAR 2 Framework.


Responding to members questions the Lead Member and Legal and Procurement Officers:

·         explained how the Framework operated and advised that if staff were required all details would be entered onto the selected agency system (currently Matrix) which would then notify all recruitment agencies registered on the Framework of the Council’s requirements and invite them to submit details of potential candidates;

·         confirmed that the majority of large employers utilised agency staff to source specialist staff at short notice to for the purposes of relieving unforeseen pressures or to undertake time limited project work;

·         advised that domiciliary care staff and supply teachers were not sourced using the Agency Workers framework, they were hired or commissioned using other systems or contracts;   

·         confirmed that the Matrix system currently utilised for the provision of agency staff had a section which included a list of all mandatory verified documentation which potential staff were required to provide i.e. professional qualifications, proof of residency/right to work documentation etc.  The Council could also add to this list other verified documentation/checks staff would require to provide i.e. Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks etc.;

·         when entering details of posts which required to be filled on a temporary basis onto the Framework the Council would specify its rate of pay for the post.  However, dependent upon the specialist skills required an agency may approach the Council requesting a higher rate/premium rate for such posts if they were encountering difficulties in attracting applicants at the Council’s rate of pay.  Only a handful of agency staff per year working for Denbighshire were likely to be paid ‘premium’ rates, they were specialist professionals that were in very short supply across the country e.g. Quantity Surveyors;

·         advised that agency staff hired by the Council were provided with the same induction programme as staff which the Council appointed itself and would be afforded the same health and well-being rights as the Council’s own staff.  There had not been any incidents or tensions between Council staff and agency staff in Denbighshire, all staff respected one and other and proceeded to undertake their duties;

·         assured members that Denbighshire County Council had adopted a proactive approach to managing the use of agency workers, ensuring they were hired mainly for time-limited projects or to relive short-term pressures, hence the difference in the amount spent by Denbighshire in comparison to Flintshire County Council over the same period of time (as detailed in the appendices to the report);

·         advised that they could include under the new Framework a question on whether potential applicants had ‘current portable DBS checks’ which could be used as verification instead of having to apply for a separate DBS check which could delay their appointment to a post;

·         advised that a decision on whether overtime should be paid to Denbighshire employees to carry out roles within their service in order to relieve pressures or to deliver a project, rather than employ agency staff to undertake the work, was a decision for the Service concerned.  However, before initiating a procurement exercise for hiring agency staff the Service requiring the staff would need to demonstrate that all potential measures to address the shortage of staff had been explored;

·         confirmed that the Procurement Service closely monitored Services’ use of agency staff and their contract period.  Prior to the expiration of a contract period officers would contact the relevant service to confirm whether they still required the services of an agency worker for a further period of time.  This contract monitoring work was important as agency staff employed for a period in excess of 12 weeks were eligible to certain employments rights; and

·         advised that if the Council was to adopt a policy of paying the ‘Real Living Wage’ as the lowest pay scale point across the Authority this would impact on all other pay scale points .  Consequently, it would increase the cost of agency staff as well as their rates were in the majority of cases set at the same rate as Denbighshire’s pay rates for the equivalent post;


In response to a suggestion from the Chair of the Committee that the governance arrangements for the proposed new Framework contract could be strengthened from Denbighshire’s perspective if a representative from the Council’s Human Resources (HR) Department attended the regular quarterly review meetings in future - which was the approach taken by Flintshire - officers advised that discussions regarding HR representation at future review meetings had taken place the previous day with the HR Manager who had agreed that a representative from HR should in future attend review meetings.  HR would also from now on produce and supply Service managers with data analysis information on their Service’s use of agency staff.


Following detailed discussion the Committee:


Resolved: subject to the above observations –


(i)           to inform Cabinet that, having considered all the information it had asked Scrutiny to review in relation to the procurement exercise and any potential alternative options that may be available to the Council for the provision of a managed service for the supply of agency workers, it was satisfied that the current contract was effectively managed and used, and that alternative arrangements would not be an efficient or  viable option for the provision of temporary or time-limited specialist staff going forward;

(ii)          to recommend to Cabinet that it should proceed with the procurement process for a provider to supply agency staff for use across Council Services; and

(iii)         at the conclusion of the procurement process, based on best value, to appoint the most economically advantageous tenderer to supply this service.


Supporting documents:


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