Transport for London (TfL) has slashed its number of temporary workers by nearly half in a year


TfL said it had introduced tighter controls on when agency workers were used (Source: Getty)

Sadiq Khan's pledge to cut the numbers of temporary Transport for London (TfL) staff has taken off, with the number of agency workers down by nearly half in a year.

TfL has stopped using temporary workers who operate through personal service companies, and in the transport body's latest quarterly report for April through to June, it said the number of temporary workers was 1,517, down 45 per cent from the same time in 2016. This has meant a weekly saving of over £3m, according to TfL.

The transport body made the switch as part of its efforts to adapt to IR35 reforms that came into force in April, with changes being introduced in an attempt to “tackle the high levels of non-compliance” with the current rules.

Read more: Changes to agency contracts could push out temporary TfL workers

Last year, Khan said he was determined to clamp down on the number of agency workers, with many employed via personal service firms which meant national insurance could be avoided.

When detail of TfL's plans to adapt to IR35 changes emerged in January, critics warned the slashing of temporary workers would deprive TfL of talent in key areas, with the potential to cause setbacks to crucial engineering projects.

A TfL spokesperson said:

We are undertaking the largest ever overhaul of our operations since TfL's creation in 2000. The day-to-day operating costs of running London's transport have decreased by £153m for the last financial year, the first such reduction in our history.

This has been achieved by reducing management layers and reliance on agency staff and eliminating duplication.

Alongside this sharp focus on our finances we have maintained a similar sharp focus on safety and reliability as we work to keep London moving, working and growing.

Despite the move, there still remains a large number of non-permanent contractors who have been working at TfL for over two years. At the end of June, there were 112 people who had been there for over five years and 206 temporary workers who had been at TfL for over three years. 

The transport body says many of these are working on large construction projects, but Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said the transport body could cut back the numbers further still.

“The only situations where I can see TfL might use agency staff paid through personal service companies is for specific contracts which are time limited and lasting just weeks or a few months," she said. There really can be no defence for TfL using these agency staff for as long as four, five or even six years. TfL has been right to clampdown on this issue and as far as I am aware there been no downsides for passengers.”