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Councils pay out £6m to consultancy firms

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Cash-strapped councils spent more than £6 million asking for advice from consultancy firms in the Black Country last year, new figures reveal.

Cash-strapped councils spent more than £6 million asking for advice from consultancy firms in the Black Country last year, new figures reveal.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed Dudley and Walsall authorities increased their spending on outside help in 2008/09 compared to the previous year.

The West Midlands Taxpayers' Alliance has hit out at the spending saying officers on big salaries should not have to pay outsiders to do their jobs for them.

Walsall Council was the highest spender, splashing out £3,097,546 on consultants in 2009/10 - up from the previous year's total of £2,253,839.

Dudley Council paid out £2,838,240 - compared with £2,575,105 in 2008/09.

Meanwhile Wolverhampton City Council cut its costs spending £1,955,688 in 2009/10 down from £3,592,587 in 2008/09.

Sandwell Council was unable to provide full details of its spending but did reveal it had spent a total of £1,150,570 on two projects. No figures were available for the previous year.

Fiona McEvoy, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Surely with so many highly paid executives on payroll our councils should be able to source the skills they need internally without relying on consultants? Local government need to make savings."

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Walsall Council cabinet member for finance and personnel, Councillor Chris Towe, said: "The majority of expenditure on consultants is directed into areas where we have identified a shortage in expertise and not the justification to employ permanent staff."

Dudley Council spokesman Phil Parker said: "Money spent on consultants to provide independent, professional advice and expertise on a range of issues represents value for money and is under 0.4 per cent of the overall annual spend of the council."

Wolverhampton's cabinet member for resources, governance and support services, Councillor Wendy Thompson, said: "We'll continue to keep a watch over this."

Sandwell's cabinet member for improvement and efficiency Councillor Mahboob Hussain said: "The Council utilises consultants to provide skills which it does not employ in house."

Meanwhile Stafford Borough Council spent £192,422.78 and Wyre Forest District Council paid £144,548.80 in 2009/10.

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