Council's �2m bill for consultants

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of wasting money after it emerged spending on private sector consultants had soared by over 250% in the last five years to more than �2million.

Laurence Cawley

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of wasting money after it emerged spending on private sector consultants had soared by over 250% in the last five years to more than �2million.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act show, how during the most recent full financial year, St Edmundsbury Borough Council forked out �2.15million on private sector consultants who have provided services ranging from legal to management advice.

This is up more than �1.5million from the �576,000 spent on consultants in 2004-5. The release of the figures comes after the council's announcement that it will have to make savings of more than �2m during the next two years.


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Last night, the council said its spending on consultants had been in step with the scale of major projects undertaken and said far less would be spent in the current and next financial years than previously.

But David Nettleton, independent group leader on the council, said while there were occasions when consultants should be used, there were other occasions when the council had wasted money paying for external advice.

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“To get specialist information you really need to use people with the expertise and those sorts of people are not always on your staff,” Mr Nettleton said. “I can see why we would use outside consultants.

“On the other hand, there is the other way of using consultants which covers the council's backside and sometimes it can be abused. That is a waste of money.”

He claimed some of the council's use of consultants in relation to parts of the Cattle Market redevelopment and the review of the town's twice-weekly markets were unnecessary.

A council spokeswoman said: “Another term for a consultant is a specialist. For the last few years we have been delivering a very ambitious capital programme, and as a district council we do not have specialist technical staff such as acousticians, structural engineers or security designers.

“The increase in spending reflects the skills we have bought in to deliver projects such as the cattle market development, Apex (the new public venue) and the leisure centre in Bury St Edmunds and, in Haverhill, the leisure centre, the cinema and a new depot.

“These technical experts' costs are built into the overall cost of the project. Now that the programme is near completion, the costs are reducing, and we are enjoying the benefits of the investments, including increased jobs and high quality facilities.”

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