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Why is councils’ bill for consultants rocketing?
THE amount councils in Worcestershire spend on outside consultants has rocketed £386,000 in just one year – despite widespread job cuts across the public sector.
The biggest increase has been at Worcestershire County Council, where it has leapt £360,000.
Critics have labelled the spending “outrageous” and want more staff to be doing more work in-house.
Councillor Peter McDonald, the leader of County Hall’s Labour group, said: “We are cutting jobs everywhere but spending outrageous fees on this. It’s disgraceful – anybody can pick up a phone and get a consultant to do something for them. We pay a lot of people high salaries to deliver on behalf of taxpayers. It beggars belief.”
County Hall’s rise included £50,000 on economic development, £66,000 on concessionary bus fares and £79,000 on commissioning services.
IT advice, the Worcestershire Hub, a staff handbook and adoption inspections were just some of the other areas outside consultants were asked to help on.
Just over £10,000 was spent on getting consultants to ring 1,400 county firms to ask them what they thought the barriers to economic growth were.
The council is trying to make £90 million in savings by 2015.
Council leader Adrian Hardman said: “We are hiring specialists to do very specific pieces of work, often because we no longer retain the right skills in-house. It’s not as simple as just getting a management consultant to do something – we are talking about very specialised projects.”
Coun David Thain, cabinet member for the workforce, said: “Six or seven years ago it was actually higher than it is now – we are a transformational council, and we’ve got to manage that change.”
Worcester City Council spent £73,733 on consultants last year. Areas included the future of Worcester’s crematorium, and a new £13 million swimming pool proposal.
A spokesman said: “Around £35,000 was spent on engaging Greengage Consulting to provide a leadership development programme for 60 managers and team leaders across the council last year.
“This programme followed a significant internal re-organisation of management and was developed to improve the service we provide residents.”
Malvern Hills District Council’s spending rose just £3,800, but the best performer was Wychavon District Council, where it dropped £18,000 in a year.
Wychavon leader Paul Middlebrough said: “We have a fantastic team in-house and a strong management track record.”