Sandwell Council takes staff back at cost of £280k

Sandwell Council spent more than £280,000 on redundancies for 38 workers it later re-employed.

In January, the Express & Star revealed that other councils in the West Midlands and Staffordshire got rid of 354 staff and brought them back in, with their combined redundancy costs topping £3.5 million.

Today it can be revealed that Sandwell Council spent £282,769 on redundancies for 38 workers since 2008-09. The highest payment among them was to an axed service development manager who received £17,749, who was later re-employed as a tutor in September 2011.

The revelation comes as the authority battles to save £100m by 2017.

Councillor Steve Eling, the council's joint deputy leader and finance chief, said: "There is no suggestion of financial irregularity.

"Redundancy is a last resort but people will inevitably apply for similar jobs to their old job, whenever they become available. We're not taking people's jobs away unnecessarily. We're doing what we can to balance the budget."

The authority initially said it could not provide information on how many axed workers it took on again since 2008-09, after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, because the information was not recorded centrally.

That was despite its external auditors KPMG finding cases of staff being re-employed as agency staff or consultants last year – and leading KPMG to question whether the authority's cuts provided value for money for the taxpayer.

The Express & Star, however, then argued that the council should reveal information about redundant workers which was presented to its audit committee at a behind closed doors meeting on September 17. The exact cost of those cuts, and the numbers of people re-employed, were not detailed in the public minutes of the meeting, but can now be revealed.

The cuts covered a range of job titles, including four community support workers. Three of those axed had been taken on again as soon as October 2010. Two of them who received £11,401 and £11,816 in redundancy respectively were re-employed as support workers.

Councillor Mahboob Hussain, the council's other joint deputy leader and who oversees HR, said: "These are rare occasions when people have been brought back in."

Of the 354 staff cut and re-employed at other councils, 185 were at Staffordshire County Council, where payouts topped £3.4m.

Wolverhampton City Council meanwhile axed 138 people who chiefs said were later "re-engaged". Walsall re-employed 10 staff.

Dudley Council slashed 15 posts where the workers were later re-employed. Stafford Borough, South Staffordshire Council and Lichfield councils all re-employed one worker.

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