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City of York Council fails to trim spending on consultants
COUNCIL chiefs in York have been accused of failing to rein in spending on outside consultants – despite stating they wanted to cut it back.
Figures have shown City of York Council paid out almost £1.2 million for external advice in 2011/12, more than the total for the previous financial year, leading to claims that promises by city leaders to reduce expenditure are not being met.
The Press revealed last December how the authority had spent £2.8 million on consultancy between that point and April 2009.
Coun Julie Gunnell , its cabinet member for corporate services, said at the time that Labour had “sought to rebalance the use of consultants” after taking power last May and was only using them “where absolutely necessary”.
Former Lib Dem council leader Steve Galloway , who obtained the 2011/12 figures through the Freedom of Information Act, said they showed expenditure under Labour was “broadly in line” with levels under the previous administration and would continue, due to managerial roles at the authority being axed amid cost-cutting.
Council leader James Alexander blamed the Lib Dems for rubber-stamping consultancy spending during their time in control and said agency staff budgets had been reduced, where possible, under Labour The total bill for external consultants last year was £1,189,742, compared with £1.15 million in 2010/11 and £1.3 million the year before.
Mr Galloway said: “So everybody seems to be agreed that expenditure of around 0.5 per cent of the total council budget on the use of external companies is about what might be expected?
“In reality, there is a conflict between Labour’s grand expenditure plans and the reduced capacity of the council workforce.”
The five companies paid the most in 2011/12 were quantity surveyors Sweet Group (£201,115), management consultants Amtel Consulting (£125,133), highway design consultants Halcrow (£77,539), Crosby Interim Consultancy Services (£77,474) and V4 Services (£26,075). Coun Alexander said Labour had inherited “a large amount of consultancy costs already committed” by the Lib Dems and Mr Galloway’s comments were “hard to take seriously”.
He said reduced staff numbers meant consultants were sometimes needed, but the authority would always prioritise “internal talent and expertise”.
“The Lib Dems voted against Labour cutting agency staff budgets soon after Labour won control of the council, so what point is Steve Galloway trying to make – that we should increase consultancy costs?” he said.
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