CARMARTHENSHIRE Council has furloughed 345 staff during the coronavirus pandemic, it has emerged.

The furloughing was mentioned in a council audit committee meeting by director of corporate services, Chris Moore, who told councillors that a £700,000 claim had been submitted to central Government for furlough costs.

Public sector organisations are generally not expected to use the taxpayer-backed furlough scheme but there are exceptions, such as when the the staff in question are not primarily funded from the public purse and cannot be redeployed to help with the Covid-19 response.

Speaking after the audit committee meeting, a council spokeswoman said 345 council staff had been furloughed but that they were funded externally and not from public funds.

They include culture, leisure and school catering staff, she said, and have been on a full salary while on furlough.

“We have claimed and will continue to claim,” said the council spokeswoman.

It is understood the council did not require the staff affected to be redeployed to coronavirus response roles.

The Local Democracy Reporter Service had asked the council in early June if it had furloughed any staff, but it did not respond.

In June the authority, which has around 8,000 employees, advertised for up to 300 cleaning staff for schools and council buildings.

The UK Government said organisations which receive public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to Covid-19 were not expected to furlough employees.

But it added that in a small number of cases, the coronavirus job retention scheme may be appropriate for some staff.

Around 9.5 million private sector jobs – a third of the work force – have been furloughed during the pandemic, at a cost of £31.7 billion to the Treasury.

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