County bosses defend paying consultants

COUNTY bosses today revealed they had saved millions after employing consultants to identify efficiency savings.

COUNTY bosses today revealed they had saved millions after employing consultants to identify efficiency savings.

A request made under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that the total cost Suffolk County Council spent on consultants between April 2007 and March 2008, ran to £1,544,221.

Among the money spent was a one-off fee of £590,925 to pay consultants to look into the Securing The Future programme, aimed at creating a central team to run services in a bid to reduce costs.

Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for resource management and transformation, said thhe advice received would eventually save the cash-strapped authority a staggering £21m.

She said: “As regards savings from Securing the Future as a result of the input from the consultant, it delivered £6.2m in the first year (2007/2008) while the cumulative savings at the end of this financial year will total £14.6m.

“We aim to make another £7.3m of savings in the financial year 2009/2010, giving us a total of £21m for the duration of the programme.

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“We are reorganising the county council so that a central unit can improve the way services are commissioned from a range of internal and external agencies.

“Through this reorganisation, we will be better able to provide the services that the public wants, providing the best value for public money.”

Figures also revealed that the last unitary bid cost the council £30,550 in consultant fees.

Last December the government performed a u-turn on a previous announcement and turned down Ipswich's bid to become a single authority.

The amount used to pay for consultants has been criticised by opposition groups who claim it is a waste of money.

Kevan Lim, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “It is a massive amount of money.

“More and more money is being spent on consultants rather than using the council's own resources.

“The Securing for Future suggested recommendations were to slim down the county council to a very small core of central administrative staff and was an exercise to reduce overall costs.

“That is not what they have been doing so, to an extent, that money has been wasted as the consultants' advice has been ignored.”

Should the council fork out for consultants? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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