THURROCK council leader John Kent has hit back at accusations the council has wasting £11m of taxpayers’ money on temporary staff and consultants.

Tory councillor Barry Johnson said the council’s figures for payments to suppliers in 2013/14 revealed it had spent £7.3m on temporary staff and £3.7m on consultant fee, adding it represented a rise of £1.6m on last year’s figures.

He said: "All Councils will need to employ temporary, casual and supply staff or consultants from time to time to cover seasonal peaks or absence.

“But when Labour is complaining about funding reductions, sharing services with Barking and Dagenham, why are they becoming more and more dependent on non permanent staff?

“It is clear that they, with UKIP's backing, cannot be trusted to spend Thurrock taxpayers’ money wisely and they need to explain why spending on consultants and temps is going through the roof.”

But council leader and Labour councillor John Kent said specialists were brought in at a cost of £2.6m, not £3.7m, to work on the Gloriana council house refurbishment project, the Purfleet regeneration project and school building.

He added: “We did, however, have to spend more than we would have liked on agency staff.

“Much of this is down to the difficulty we face – as do most councils - in recruiting staff in areas such as social care where, frankly, we have no alternative but to hire good quality agency staff to make sure the most vulnerable are properly protected.”

Thurrock Council began sharing managers with Barking and Dagenham Council as a result of the £30m cuts made to its budget by the government and in anticipation of the further £25m cuts it must still make – to date this has saved £1m a year.

However, Mr Johnson added the council’s savings targets on shared services fell half a million pounds short last year, meaning other services had to be cut to meet the shortfall.