Ipswich: Former borough bosses defend forking out �5m of taxpayers’ cash on consultancy fees

IPSWICH: Nearly �5million of taxpayers’ cash was paid to a consultancy firm over a five-year period, it can be revealed today.

Figures contained in a response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request show that the money was paid by Ipswich Borough Council to Northgate Kendric Ash (NKA) by the former Tory/Lib-Dem administration.

But former borough deputy leader John Carnall, who brought in the consultants when the coalition were in power at Grafton House, insisted the expenditure represented a good deal.

The FoI reveals that �3.6m was spent on consultancy, management fees, and special projects and a further �1.2m was spent on software purchasing, licences, maintenance, and upgrades.

A further �400,000 has been committed to the consultancy contract.

Mr Carnall said the cost may have been high – but the consultants had saved the council more than �8m by reorganising benefits and housing management.

He said: “So far as the council taxpayers of Ipswich were concerned this was a very good deal.

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“When we took over in 2004 the benefits department was one of the worst in the country. By the time we left office last year, it was in the top quarter of benefit departments.

“There may have been a cost in bringing in this expertise, but it has more than paid for itself and transformed those departments of the council.”

However current council leader David Ellesmere said he was not impressed by the cost of the consultants.

He said: “The consultancy contracts with Northgate Kendric Ash were let under the previous Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration. Labour councillors were always highly sceptical of the value for money provided by these contracts.

“In the manifesto Labour stood on to take control of the council last May we said we will cut back the use of expensive consultants.

“We have stood by this promise. No new consultancy contracts have been let with NKA since we took control of the council. Existing contracts will be allowed to run until their conclusion and will then not be renewed.”

He said that in future any re-organisation of management was likely to be carried out by full-time council staff.

n Is the use of consultants justified? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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