Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude has made it plain on more than one occasion that the public sector under his stewardship will be taking a long, hard, cost-cutting look at value for money. He repeated the theme at the recent “More for Less” Conference. Declaring that his government would streamline the procurement process, he made it clear that savings had already been made – already, 75 per cent fewer permanent appointments are being made, along with 30 per cent fewer agency workers. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), however, felt that Mr Maude’s remarks demanded a reply.

REC’s Director of Policy and Professional Services, Tom Hadley, offered a robust response on behalf or contractors working through umbrella companies. Welcoming Mr Maude’s proposals to reduce the burdens in the procurement process, he cautioned against the tendency to view agency workers as an “easy target” in an indiscriminate cost-slashing programme. The reality, Mr Hadley insisted, was that agency workers are frequently highly trained professionals who make an enormous contribution to frontline services with their specialised skills.

Ironically, at a time when public sector organisations are tempted to make indiscriminate budgetary cuts to remain within spending limits, private sector companies are increasingly attracted to the advantages provided by temporary staff.  Hadley maintained that workers on the contractor payroll provide a central element of cost-effective resourcing strategies. Sadly, the dominant mindset within the public sector tends to see them as an easily cut “unnecessary” cost. Whilst he acknowledged that costs need to be carefully managed in the public sector, he cautioned against crude “slash and burn” cost cutting measures. Specialised recruitment providers should be seen as an economical resource, supporting the core workforce, he believes.

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