DUDLEY'S struggling children's services department has been paying for not just one temporary director on hundreds of pounds a day but 12 interim roles - the authority has confirmed.

The News reported in August how Dudley Council bosses were handing out £800 a day in agency fees to keep interim department director Merlin Joseph in post.

But it has now been revealed that the department, which has failed to correct flaws highlighted by Ofsted three-and-a-half years ago, currently has 12 interim employees - ranging from the practice standards manager through to head of services roles - with fees ranging from £425 to £800 a day for each post.

Wordsley councillor Paul Brothwood, who has repeatedly raised concerns about the department in the press and to senior council managers, said: "It's unbelievable.

“Following years of inadequate leadership Dudley Council has failed to grow its own management talent pool which is why local taxpayers are left footing the bill for 12 expensive interim directors costing between £425 and £800 per day.

"That's £2million a year. It's out of control.

“I have said it many times that this Labour-controlled council lacks business acumen and has left our children’s services in a dire state."

Councillor Judy Foster, deputy leader of Dudley Council and cabinet member responsible for human resources, said: “There has been, and continues to be efforts to recruit permanent members of staff to these key positions, but as some of these roles are statutory roles which cannot remain vacant they are being filled on a temporary basis. The costs for these interims are being covered by existing vacant posts, while others are new posts already identified.

“We are committed to achieving excellence and giving children the best possible care and opportunities to develop and it is therefore essential we find the right people for these roles.”

A report prepared by Dudley Council, in response to questions submitted by Cllr Brothwood (UKIP), said: "The market for these specialised positions is sparse and extremely competitive and it is the case nationwide that high calibre individuals are very difficult to find.

"These roles are highly technical and require significant levels of experience. For example, the authority has gone out to advert twice for the chief officer role and despite this has been unsuccessful.

"The enormity of the transformation work matched with the conditions meant this was not a role for a newly promoted officer. Likewise the public interest and media coverage matched with the regulatory framework do not make these attractive roles.

"It is a sad reflection currently that we have not been able to grow all our own within the children's service."

The report said, however, as part of improvement efforts within the department a skills audit was being carried out and a learning and development pathway was being created for social work staff to enhance skills and identify potential future managers.