The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service have spent £161m on temporary staff over the last three years, despite a central government freeze on non-payroll recruitment.

Since April 2011 the MoJ alone spent £111.2m on temporary staff including agency workers, interim managers and contractors, Gazette research can reveal.

The amount spent on temporary staff increased from £28.2m in 2011/12 to £44m in 2012/13 and totalled £39m in 2013/14.

The MoJ also spent £27m on consultants over the last three years, according to the department's workforce management information transparency data.

In 2012 the Cabinet Office made permanent a moratorium on temporary workers in government. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: 'Our [spending] controls will be a permanent feature, helping to change fundamentally the way government operates.'

However, some departments have obtained an exemption from the spending freeze.

An MoJ spokesperson said: 'Since April 2010 we have cut our overall spend on temporary staff by £35.5m.

'We only use temporary staff to fill business-critical posts and essential frontline services where they can provide a fast, flexible and efficient way to obtain necessary skills that are not currently available in-house. We will continue to examine our use of contractors and look for further reductions.'

During the last three years HMCTS has spent £13.4m on overtime, with the MoJ spending around £4m.

Last week the Cabinet Office claimed it has saved £4.7bn by reducing the size of the civil service by 16% since 2010 and reforming pensions.

Last year the MoJ was criticised for being the government department to spend the most on agency staff, following a series of parliamentary responses to Labour MP Jon Trickett.

Trickett accused the government of 'wasting huge amounts of money' by spending tens of millions of pounds on redundancies while simultaneously relying on widespread agency labour.

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