THE number of people working for a local council on zero hours contracts has doubled in two years, it has been claimed.

The issue of the use of the controversial contracts by Monmouthshire Council was raised by opposition councillors at a meeting of the full council.

People on zero hours contracts have no fixed hours of working and are called on when necessary.

Leader of the Labour group, Cllr Dmitri Batrouni said: “In 2013 when the Labour group first raised our concerns about zero hours contracts we had 140.

“The latest information is that there are 318 – so it has more than doubled in two years.

“This is about cuts and relying more on casual staff who we can use and chuck away as and when.”

But deputy leader of the council Cllr Bob Greenland (Con, Wolvesnewton) insisted the authority did not “take advantage” of workers.

Cllr Batrouni said there had been a ‘surge’ in the number of teaching assistants on the contracts, up from one in 2013 to 16 now.

Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Phil Murphy (Con, Caerwent) said that except for a “few minor discrepancies” the council complied with

the Welsh Government’s guidance on the use of “non-guaranteed hours contracts.”

He added: “These contracts are vital to allow services to function, particularly in the youth service, leisure centres and supply teachers. They are not imposed on individuals.

“If the practice ceased so would the services – there would inevitably be less care provision because (contractors’) costs would go up dramatically.”

The council was told that where somebody was working regular hours over a three-month period and there was a continuing need, the council would look at making them a permanent member of staff.

Cllr Debbie Blakeborough (Ind, Trellech) said she was aware of a small number of people who had been working 20 hours a week for two years and were still on zero hours contracts.

The council agreed that its audit committee should look in depth at the contracts.