A recent investigation, by the Times newspaper, revealing that dozens of local authorities have spent more than £5bn on Umbrella Company employees and other agency and consultancy workers has failed to appreciate the vital service that the UK’s professional contractors provide for public services, a prominent freelancer representative body has claimed.
Much of the expenditure has gone on agency social workers; however, there has also been a significant rise in the use made by local authorities of interim managers and consultants. The sum has been dubbed “scandalous” by Jonathan Isaby, the CEO of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed) has responded to the negative reactions to the news by insisting that contractors provide vital services up and down the country for public sector bodies.
IPSE’s director of policy and external affairs, Simon McVicker, said that specialist consultants are an “invaluable resource” for the public sector, delivering sought-after skills, very often at short notice. Their specialist skills can be drafted in swiftly to manage fluctuations in demand, whereupon they can exit equally rapidly.
Mr McVicker continued: “With councils cutting spending and more permanent staff being axed, councils are reliant on consultants to tap into their expertise on a flexible basis. By only hiring consultants as and when they are needed, the overall cost is more effectively managed, compared to hiring full time employees. Instead of seeing the rise in spending on consultants as a problem, we should be embracing the flexible, specialist service that independent professionals provide to both public and private organisations across the country.”