Council Pays Consultants Almost £6.5m Over Three Years

Claim it is cost effective to buy specialist knowledge on temporary basis

In a Freedom of Information Request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, it was revealed the council had spent £6,467,538 on employing consultants between 2015 and 2018.

The admin and finance department spent the most on consultants, shelling out £2,591,430 in the period.
The department’s highest yearly spend was £2.763m in 2015/16.

The figures include all spend coded in the council’s accounts under the category “consultants fees” and includes individuals trading as consultants and companies providing services to the council.

Since 2010 local authorities have seen their central government grants slashed, leaving them with less money to spend on frontline services and on employing staff.

In recent years councils have come under fire for spending so much money on consultants considering their dwindling budgets.

Last year, it was revealed that Redbridge Council had paid out £1.3 million for consultancy advice on building works.

Northamptonshire council also hit the headlines for spending £24 million on consultants between May 2014 and September 2018. It went bankrupt in 2018.

But the Local Government Association has previously said the use of consultants can be a “smart” use of expenditure.

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said consultants could provide specialist knowledge on a temporary, and therefore cheaper, basis. They said: “In certain circumstances, specialist knowledge or advice is required and it is much more cost effective to buy in that knowledge on a temporary case by case basis rather than employing people permanently. It would be a waste of taxpayer cash to employ them on a permanent basis if their specialist talent is only occasionally needed.

“Examples include the council’s large estate regeneration plans and its own self-build target of delivering 1,000 new affordable homes. They require the support of industry experts working alongside the council’s own staff to drive these plans forward.

“Some of the technical expertise for these large-scale projects doesn’t exist in-house and commissioning this kind of specialist assistance is the most efficient way of delivering these programmes.”

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

January 23, 2020