Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 26°C

min temp: 19°C

Search

Poll: St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath’s £1million consultancy bill - including £200,000 on move to shared service

10:06 06 June 2014

The West Suffolk House council offices in Bury St Edmunds

The West Suffolk House council offices in Bury St Edmunds

Archant

More than £1million in taxpayers’ money has been splashed out by two west Suffolk councils on consultants - a fifth of which was spent on a highly touted move to shared services.

The spending by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils also includes more than £11,000 on graphic designers and £50,000 for a specialist highways study into the controversial Hatchfield Farm application in Newmarket, according to figures obtained by the EADT.

The councils work together under the banner of West Suffolk and claim to be saving £3.5million a year after moving to a shared service, which included wide-scale redundancies, and a spokeswoman said it is cheaper for the council to use consultants than employ specialists full time.

“As with any business, the council employs expert advisers if we do not have the specific skills or capacity within our own staff,” said the spokeswoman.

“It is much cheaper than having more staff on our payroll, and in some cases we can also reclaim the costs.

“In the case of planning inquiries, they prevent the council being liable to the award of costs from the appellant’s side - potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds - so also provide value for money at large inquiries where the applicant uses expensive barristers and legal teams to challenge the council’s decisions on planning applications and policy.”

Almost £200,000 has been split between two firms - Ignite Consulting and Graincrest Ltd - to undertake an in-depth restructuring programme for the move to shared services.

Forty-eight redundancies across both councils saw them pay out £2.7m during the transition, according to their annual accounts.

St Edmundsbury’s emerging Vision 2031 document has seen the council fork out almost £60,000 - including £600 for two phone calls to a London barristers - while the council has also spent big on research into retail.

Retail experts DTZ Consulting were handed more than £30,000 by St Edmundsbury for a variety of reports and planning advice, while Deloitte was paid more than £37,000 to carry out a retail appraisal report.

Bury St Edmunds borough and county councillor David Nettleton said: “By reducing staff numbers, there is a need to employ outside experts on an occasional basis.

“But if St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath are increasingly becoming enabling organisations, is there a need to pay such high salaries to those officers who are merely acting as go-betweens?”

In Forest Heath, development control has been the central focus of council spending over the time period covered by the figures - from April 1, 2010, to January 1, 2014.

It paid more than £50,000 to consultants over the purchase of the Omar Homes site in Brandon, as well as £16,000 over the application to put housing at the Meddler Stud in Kentford, which was rejected by Forest Heath and again at appeal.

Leading law firm Mayer Brown was paid more than £50,000 to produce a report on the highways impact of the first 1,200-home Hatchfield Farm application.

In response to the EADT’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the council said: “Without undertaking this work, the council would not have been in a position to determine the planning application with all of the information and evidence available.”

Ipswich Crown Court

A dishonest Ipswich man who was caught by police after his DNA was found at the scene of two break-ins and a theft has been jailed for 20 months.

And indicative perspective of what a new retirement homes on the 30 Lower Brook Street site, might look like.
Development plans are going out for consultation.
The site is currently Archant's newspaper offices.

A public exhibition will give local residents Ipswich residents the opportunity to view and comment on McCarthy and Stone’s preliminary proposals to redevelop land between Lower Brook Street and Turret Lane.

Police are appealing for witnesses

Suffolk Police are searching for a woman who has gone missing from Ipswich.

Fire crews called to eastbound A14

Motorists face queues on the A14 this afternoon after a vehicle fire brought traffic to a halt near Ipswich.

The Red Arrows were able to complete a shortened display at the Clacton Airshow.

For almost everyone it was the perfect summer day on the beach – blue skies immediately above, temperatures in the high 20s, warm sea water.

Tim Odgers on a recent trip to York Minster

Tributes have been paid to an “inspirational” former Stowmarket Middle School head teacher who has died of an aggressive blood cancer.

Duncan Goodhew at Swimathon 90 at Mid Suffolk Leisure Stowmarket in January 1990.

Shell suits, Fun-Fax organisers and yo-yos – all stuff you can look back fondly on if you grew up in the 90s.

File picture of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service fire engines.

Fire crews have been called to help a young pony that has become trapped in a ditch in Palgrave, on the Suffolk and Norfolk border.

Ben Gummer arrives in Downing Street.

In the fourth of five three-minute interviews, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer explains what his new job as Minister for the Cabinet entails.

Liverpool Street station

London’s Liverpool Street train station has been evacuated following reports of a suspicious package.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

MyDate24 MyPhotos24