TEMPORARY staff costs have soared by more than £3m in the last year, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request found that Wokingham Borough Council spent £7.8m covering for permanent positions in 2017/18.

The biggest increase (£1.35m) in temporary contracts was in Customer and Localities Services, which covers highway maintenance grass cutting and bin collections.

A further £3m was spent on People Services, representing an extra £950,000 on education and adult social care.

Councillor Clive Jones criticised the figure, saying it was hard to swallow given council tax has increased this year by 5.49 per cent this year.

He said: “I doubt very much if this massive increase was budgeted for, having so many employees on temporary contracts will not be good morale at the council or for staff continuity.

“I am told that some contracts pay people £1,000 a day, with the average payment being around £500 a day. Is this a sensible use of council tax payers money?

“There has been an increase of over £3m in temporary employment contracts - and council debt increasing from £50m a few years ago to around £400m in the recent medium term financial plan.”

The overall figure has risen from just over £4m in 2015/16, with the chief executive salary climbing to £341,345 last year, an increase of nearly one third.

The council says the costs are associated with money-saving long-term transformation.

Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner, executive member for Finance, said: “The council has been making changes to services to make them more efficient and responsive, a programme we have called “21st Century Council”.

“In order to carry out 21st Century Council, we have needed to hire additional temporary staff for a limited period of time. It is worth pointing out, however, that these changes, when complete, will save £4million each year.

“Opposition councillors won’t back our plans to deliver high-quality, value-for-money services. So perhaps they can explain to local people which vital services they would cut, or which taxes or charges they would massively increase instead?”