Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 15°C

min temp: 5°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Poll: St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath’s £1million consultancy bill - including £200,000 on move to shared service

10:06 06 June 2014

The West Suffolk House council offices in Bury St Edmunds

The West Suffolk House council offices in Bury St Edmunds

Archant

More than £1million in taxpayers’ money has been splashed out by two west Suffolk councils on consultants - a fifth of which was spent on a highly touted move to shared services.

shares

The spending by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils also includes more than £11,000 on graphic designers and £50,000 for a specialist highways study into the controversial Hatchfield Farm application in Newmarket, according to figures obtained by the EADT.

The councils work together under the banner of West Suffolk and claim to be saving £3.5million a year after moving to a shared service, which included wide-scale redundancies, and a spokeswoman said it is cheaper for the council to use consultants than employ specialists full time.

“As with any business, the council employs expert advisers if we do not have the specific skills or capacity within our own staff,” said the spokeswoman.

“It is much cheaper than having more staff on our payroll, and in some cases we can also reclaim the costs.

“In the case of planning inquiries, they prevent the council being liable to the award of costs from the appellant’s side - potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds - so also provide value for money at large inquiries where the applicant uses expensive barristers and legal teams to challenge the council’s decisions on planning applications and policy.”

Almost £200,000 has been split between two firms - Ignite Consulting and Graincrest Ltd - to undertake an in-depth restructuring programme for the move to shared services.

Forty-eight redundancies across both councils saw them pay out £2.7m during the transition, according to their annual accounts.

St Edmundsbury’s emerging Vision 2031 document has seen the council fork out almost £60,000 - including £600 for two phone calls to a London barristers - while the council has also spent big on research into retail.

Retail experts DTZ Consulting were handed more than £30,000 by St Edmundsbury for a variety of reports and planning advice, while Deloitte was paid more than £37,000 to carry out a retail appraisal report.

Bury St Edmunds borough and county councillor David Nettleton said: “By reducing staff numbers, there is a need to employ outside experts on an occasional basis.

“But if St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath are increasingly becoming enabling organisations, is there a need to pay such high salaries to those officers who are merely acting as go-betweens?”

In Forest Heath, development control has been the central focus of council spending over the time period covered by the figures - from April 1, 2010, to January 1, 2014.

It paid more than £50,000 to consultants over the purchase of the Omar Homes site in Brandon, as well as £16,000 over the application to put housing at the Meddler Stud in Kentford, which was rejected by Forest Heath and again at appeal.

Leading law firm Mayer Brown was paid more than £50,000 to produce a report on the highways impact of the first 1,200-home Hatchfield Farm application.

In response to the EADT’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the council said: “Without undertaking this work, the council would not have been in a position to determine the planning application with all of the information and evidence available.”

shares
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) said they have received 1,248 hoax calls over the last two years.

Sore feet from wearing shoes, lethargy on a diet, and a dead squirrel are just a few of the reasons people called the East of England Ambulance Service this year.

Colchester United media manager Matt Hudson (left) and Tom Taylor, junior club co-ordinator, with the Family Club of the Year Award during the Football League Awards 2015 at The Brewery in London. Picture: Nick Potts

Colchester United may be staring down the barrel of relegation this season but fans have finally got something to shout about as it has been named Family Club of the Year at the Football League Awards.

New school places.

A brand new Colchester primary school due to open from September could be filled immediately.

Steven and Debbie Morgan have taken over at The Royal Oak pub in Sudbury

The new managers of a 17th Century Suffolk pub with a chequered past have pledged to return it to its rightful position in the heart of the community, despite facing a “monumental battle”.

Matthew Percy while standing for the county council in 2013.

One of the most familiar faces on the political scene in the Ipswich area has died after being hit by a train near the town’s station.

A blue Rover 25 and a red Ford Focus were involved in a collision in Langer Road at 1.10pm.

Firefighters cut free a motorist trapped in a car after a crash in Felixstowe today.

A Mercedes HGV ended up on its side after a single-vehicle crash in Goddard Road at the roundabout near the King George V Playing Field at around 2.15pm, police said.

A lorry has crashed and overturned at a major roundabout in Ipswich near the A14.

Firefighters worked for around 45 minutes to free the ducklings, which were taken back to the safety of a nearby pond, a brigade spokesman said.

Ten ducklings trapped in a grate were rescued by firefighters in Suffolk today.

Troops in a trench on Anzac Cove from the forthcoming World War One Exhibition at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.

An exhibition commemorating those who died serving in the First World War will explore the involvement of Ipswich and Suffolk men in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

British Transport Police (BTP) said paramedics were called to the incident, which is being treated as non-suspicious, but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

A man was fatally hit by a train near Ipswich last night.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages