Council pays out more than £4 million for staff overtime in one year

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A North-east council paid out more than £4 million last year on overtime for staff.

Councillors at the audit committee at Aberdeenshire Council will discuss the figures at its latest meeting due to be held on Thursday.

For the 2016/2017 financial year £3.3m was spent on overtime at the local authority – but this increased to £4.2m after additional costs such as national insurance and pension contributions were added.

The previous year £3.5m was spent prior to any additional costs being factored in.

In a report set to go before councillors at Woodhill House it was noted the direct cost of overtime may not “provide value for money”.

David Hughes, chief internal auditor at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “Overtime is payable at 1.5 times the normal rate payable for any time worked over 37 hours per week by an employee in any one post.

“Overtime must be authorised in advance by the relevant line manager.

“The objective of this audit was to review the levels of overtime and determine if this is the most cost efficient way of managing additional work.

“Taking only the direct cost into account would suggest that overtime does not provide value for money, as in theory the resource cost is 50% more expensive than employing additional staff to do the same work.

“However, services have stated that operational circumstances and recruitment difficulties often mean overtime is the best value option available.”

Mr Hughes added overtime was also retrospectively authorised.

He said: “Although written procedures require advance author-isation of all overtime, there is no standard method for recording this authorisation.

“Records are not kept by services. Many cases are considered, retrospectively, to have been emergencies, though there is no agreed definition of such circumstances.

“Human Resources and Organisation Development will review the policy to determine if a record of prior approval, is necessary, and if so liaise thereafter with the heads of service.”