Thursday, 8 December 2011

Council spends £139,000 a day on consultants

Cornwall Council spent £139,000 per day on consultants in August this year according to new figures just released by the authority. This is despite the frequent promises to cut spending on this area.

The bill for consultants was £4.2 million for the month and another £1.4 million was spent on agency staff.

There is always likely to be some spending on consultants. It's unreasonable to expect the council to have every type of expertise within its workforce. So occasionally we need to buy in people who are, for instance, experts in railway law. But these should be contracts for hours or days, not for weeks or months at a time. And at a time when the Council is busy cutting bus services and threatening to close public toilets, the consultants cost seems particularly obscene. A single day's spending on consultants could save Camelford Leisure Centre twice over.

The same goes for agency staff. There are some areas of council work where a bit of flexibility is needed, but the current numbers are way more than they need to be and new people need training (at the Council's expense) before they can move into the front line. A high agency staff bill is usually a sign of lots of staff absence and sickness as well.

Far too many people employed as consultants or on agency contracts to do jobs you could get someone in Cornwall to do on a full-time basis for far less money.

Back in January, when Cornwall Council was spending a mere £70,000 a day on consultants and £30,000 on agency staff, Conservative Leader Alec Robertson promised new initiatives to cut the cost. And the Council's statement in response to these figures is to promise more of the same.

Liberal Democrats would name a single lead officer and a single cabinet member to take responsibility for spending on consultants and agency staff. We want to reduce the spending month on month and year on year.

UPDATE - The BBC online coverage of the story is here.

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