£2million cash store for county takeover

JUST days after vulnerable elderly people in Suffolk were warned that their day centres could be under threat, the Evening Star can reveal details of a £2 million war chest that the county is building up for the battle over local government reorganisation.

JUST days after vulnerable elderly people in Suffolk were warned that their day centres could be under threat, the Evening Star can reveal details of a £2 million war chest that the county is building up for the battle over local government reorganisation.

Last week the county council announced cuts of £800,000 to day care services. This could lead to some vulnerable elderly people losing time with their friends at centres - and could ultimately lead to the closure of centres altogether.

Now it has emerged that the council is tendering for consultants to advise it in the battle over the future of local authorities.

The county is to fight attempts to create a single council for Ipswich - it wants to join existing district and borough councils in a new alliance to provide more seamless services while retaining their own identities.

The consultants it is advertising for would build that case - and would also be able to help districts who want to link up with the county.

The tender document, points out the areas to be looked, such as: “Provision of strategic business consultancy services including, but not limited to, strategic positioning, advice regarding structures, reviews of efficiency and effectiveness, insourcing versus outsourcing decisions and support for procurements and externalisations.”

Most Read

A spokeswoman for the county said that did not necessarily mean privatising services, although it would allow a close look at how they were delivered.

And the link with the local government review - which is looking at council structures - is also clear.

The tender document says: “The imminent publication of the Local Government White Paper will require urgent provision of strategic consultancy advice to local authorities in Suffolk; including a possible need to prepare a submission to government immediately after publication.

“The Council wishes to ensure continuity of supply for this advice and subsequent strategic advice.”

The tender says the fees for the consultants would be between £500,000 and £2 million - although the county would not necessarily spend that money.

The spokeswoman said: “What this tendering process means is that the consultants would be in place if they are needed by the county. It does not mean that we will be spending the money up front.”

Ipswich borough council is hoping that the government will allow it to take over all local authorities in the town, and has linked up with the cities of Norwich, Oxford and Exeter to put its case to ministers.

It has a budget of £40,000 to make the case although a spokesman said it had not so far used much of that.

OPPOSITION politicians at Endeavour House were furious about the news that the council was considering bringing in expensive consultants.

Deputy Labour leader Kevan Lim said: “This has not been discussed by the cabinet and it is the first we have heard about.

“It is a very substantial sum to be talking about, and it all seems to be linked to local government review.

“I shall be seeking some urgent answers from the chief executive to find out how this has all been approved without going through the council.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Andrew Cann was also surprised at the amount being spent.

He said: “Whatever the administration says, it seems that they are prepared to spend this money and we need to know more about the process.

“I shall be seeking more answers from senior officers.”

Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for Resources, Finance and Performance, said: “It is often more cost effective to bring in consultants with the right experience on a short term basis, rather than employing people directly ourselves.

“This tender will help us to make sure we're getting the best value for money for council tax payers, and it doesn't commit us to spending any money now.

“Instead it is a way of saving time and money later - a way of working which has already proved very effective in our legal and property services."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter