TAXPAYERS have had to fork out more than £1 million for outside consultants at Worcestershire County Council over the last year, it has emerged.
It is the third time in the last five years that fees on external advisers have smashed through the seven-figure barrier.
Your Worcester News has obtained a spreadsheet breaking down all the consultancy spending in 2013/14, revealing:
- Bosses spent £4,525 on 'commercial mentoring' where staff went out to see how the private sector operates
- £18,060 went on asking a private firm to look into how Worcestershire can dispose of its household rubbish
- £259,000 was spent on getting advice on a blueprint aimed at saving money, known as Future Fit
- Consultants were handed £4,750 to collect data on the amount of traffic in Worcestershire
- A staggering £168,000 went on IT consultants
- £3,000 went on advising the council what to do with its property assets
- Among the massive variety of other topics where consultants were called upon was website design, planning advice, boosting tourism, car parking management, the quality of social services and for holding public focus groups
The total spend in 2013/14 was £1.07 million, of which £663,000 came from the council itself.
The rest was from a variety of other sources like Government or European grants, other public sector bodies like district councils, the NHS or school funds.
The council's opposition Labour group has labelled the figures "an insult", saying it comes at a time when around £20 million a year is being slashed from budgets and 1,500 in-house jobs are being axed by 2018.
But the Conservative leadership insists the spending can be justified, saying it does not have all the expertise in-house to do everything.
Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: "While thousands of workers are being sacked, services being cut to the bone or gone altogether the consultants are having a field day.
"It cannot be right or justified that at a time of severe cutbacks and thousands of employees being thrown on the dole queue that such a staggering amount of money should be spent on consultants."
The council spent just under £900,000 on consultants in 2012/13 and £1.1 million in 2011/12.
Councillor John Campion, cabinet member with responsibility for transformation and change, said: "We mustn't forget the council is like any other business and just like a multinational business in the private sector, it evaluates the most efficient ways in which to get service provision at the best possible cost.
"In most cases the quickest and most effective solution is to use external organisations, as training up internal staff is both lengthy and would cost more in the long run."
He said the tally was a small percentage of the yearly wages to staff and insisted the council has an “excellent” reputation for saving cash.