Councils ‘bonkers’ for consultants use
COUNCILS in the region have been attacked as “bonkers” for paying consultants to identify budget cuts.
The Northern Echo has learnt two authorities –Darlington and North Yorkshire – paid £86,898 and £95,000 respectively to consultants to advise on potential savings.
Last month it emerged Northumberland County Council paid a consultancy firm £54,637 for 46 days of similar work.
Councils are grappling with a potential reduction in grants of 25 per cent as the Government attempts to cut its deficit.
Darlington Borough Council said it spent £86,898 on consultancy services from Deloitte.
It expects to reduce its annual budget by £107m to £85m over the next four years and has shed 110 jobs this year.
The council is also proposing to revamp its management structure by reducing the number of chief officers from 22 to 14.
Meanwhile, after initially refusing to disclose its spending as it was “commercially confidential”, North Yorkshire County Council confirmed it had paid PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) £95,000 to identify savings.
North Yorkshire County Councillor Stuart Parsons, who represents Richmond for the Liberal Democrats, said councils’ use of consultants in this way was “bonkers” and “ludicrous”.
“It is an abysmal use of resources and totally wrong.
They should be keeping that money to help provide frontline services.
“The people who are losing their services will not be happy to know the council has spent an amount of money on consultants just because they do not have the political courage to take these decisions themselves,” he said.
Kenny Bell, deputy regional convenor at Unison and the union’s branch secretary at Newcastle City Council, said: “Some people running councils have the mistaken belief that the private sector has all the answers and we cannot manage rapid change ourselves in the public sector.”
In a statement, Darlington Borough Council said Deloitte has been working with it since spring to cut spending and draw up new senior management structures.
“These new management structures are being consulted upon and, if taken forward, are estimated to save the council £750,000 each year,” it said.
North Yorkshire County Council said it was using consultants as a “one-off” agreement to help the authority find £68m in savings over four years.
It said: “The county council rarely employs consultants but believes that, given the scale of the challenge ahead, PwC are well placed to provide the necessary objective advice and best-practice options.”