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February 22, 2018 11:39 AM

Hard-up Teignbridge Council has spent over £3.4 million hiring agency staff, figures revealed today by the Liberal Democrats confirm.

The authority, which plans to increase Council Tax this April by the maximum £5 allowed and brought in the controversial 'garden tax' three years ago under which residents pay £35 a year to have their green bin emptied, is paying out an average £492,000 a year hiring agency staff.

In 2011/12, when the Conservatives took control of Teignbridge, the council spent £292,000 on agency workers. That rocketed to £747,043 last year (2016-17) and so far this year the Newton Abbot based authority has splashed out a further £503,000 on temporary staff.

Alistair DewhirstCllr Alistair Dewhirst, the Liberal Democrat opposition deputy leader on Teignbridge, said:" We are astonished the council is spending so much money on agency staff. It truly is breathtaking. This is around £41,000 a month. We need a serious investigation into what's going on in the council and why on earth so much is being spent in this way.

"Is there a problem recruiting staff or some issue we're not being told about and the Conservatives are simply allowing all this public money to spent on temporary workers. We do need to get to the bottom of what's happening. There surely must be a big saving to be made.

"This could help support other services. Opportunities are being missed to solve local parking problems with a low cost residents parking permit and, for example, make better use of some car parks, like Osborne Street in Newton Abbot, which are under-used. We need to support our communities and ensure the council is properly run.

"Today, the Conservatives once again want to whack up Council Tax by the maximum £5 allowed as well as increase parking charges, including the controversial plan to put up the fees at Dawlish Warren. Yet again, it seems making best use of what we already have takes second place to filling the council's coffers because the public have no choice but to pay up.

"What Teignbridge Lib Dems have revealed today, is that far from being a careful custodian of the public purse, money is pouring out of Teignbridge's back pocket without, it seems, the controlling Conservatives being aware or doing anything to stop such vast amounts being spent," added Cllr Dewhirst.

The Liberal Democrats say council savings could be used to launch a litter and graffiti clean team to improve the cleanliness and appearance across Teignbridge, along with a new leisure offer to encourage people to take up an activity in the council's leisure services.

To help boost council income, the Lib Dems are calling for a cross-Party working group to look at best practice and the ways in which other local authorities are drawing in more income to support key services.

Looking ahead, there's also a plan to invest in high-spec environmentally sound low cost housing for local people using, for example, income the council currently receives from the sale of the former council houses under Right to Buy.

Gordon HookLiberal Democrat opposition leader, Cllr Gordon Hook said:" We're looking ahead at what could be achieved with a council that's watching the money and investing in the services people want and need. For example, keeping our streets and communities clean, supporting really innovative new housing that is environmentally sound and low cost to run, and offering a better deal for residents who want to get active or try out an activity. What we do know, is that we have to stop the waste happening right now at Conservative run Teignbridge."