County's cost for consultants revealed

MORE than £600,000 has been paid by county chiefs for advice from outside organisations during the current financial year, The Evening Star can reveal today.

MORE than £600,000 has been paid by county chiefs for advice from outside organisations during the current financial year, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Suffolk County Council has so far paid outside consultants £624,364 during the financial year which started on April 1.

During the entire financial year 2005/6 the council spent £1,179,799 on consultants dealing with specific areas of its work.

The figures were revealed as the result of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted to the county council by The Evening Star.


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And they were revealed as the government's spending watchdog warned that hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being wasted by the Government on management consultants.

The county does not have a specific budget set aside for consultants - individual departments uses them as and when necessary.

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Jane Storey, Suffolk's spokeswoman for Resources, Finance and Performance, said: "We generally use consultants to help us with specific one-off projects, where we need a particular set of skills to complete some work.

“It can be much more cost effective to bring in consultants with the right experience on a short term basis, rather than employing people directly ourselves, and we do tender our consultancy work to make sure we're getting the best value for money for council tax payers.

“The county council also benefits from the experiences they bring us from other similar projects they have worked on, which can save us time and money compared to having to do the work from scratch."

The National Audit Office disclosed that annual public sector spending on consultants has swollen to an estimated £2.8 billion - a one third increase over just three years.

Over the past three a years a total of £7.2 billion is thought to have been paid out in consultants' fees.

However the NAO report said that huge sums were being paid out unnecessarily because of the inefficient way consultants were used by government departments and other public bodies.

It calculated that the annual bill could be slashed by £270 million immediately if proper efficiency savings were brought in rising to £540 million in three years' time - a total saving to the taxpayer of more than £1 billion over the three year period.

"When used incorrectly, consultants can drain budgets very quickly, with little or no productive results," the report said.

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