Council has spent £50m on consultants since 2006

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WEST Sussex County Council spent £50 million on consultants in the last five years, the County Times can reveal.

Spending of millions of pounds on consultants by West Sussex County Council is resulting in big savings for the authority, members were told at Friday’s meeting.

Figures showed that around £50m has been spent over the last five years.

Brian Hall (Ind, Haywards Heath Town), who had asked for the details, suggested that the amounts were ‘somewhat excessive’, as the county council had so many highly-paid officers.

Michael Brown (Con, Fernhurst), cabinet member for finance and resources, said he did not agree, and he commented that the number of highly-paid officers was ‘dropping significantly’.

Mr Brown told the council that no in-house architects were retained.

If a new school needed to be designed, it was a lot cheaper to go to consultants than keep it in-house with staff in full-time employment.

The same thing happened in highways, where consultant engineers were brought in if a bridge need to be designed or modified.

Most of the spending was typically with IT contractors.

What he could assure the county council was that they did not spend £3,000 an hour employing very expensive chaps wearing Savile Row suits to tell Kieran Stigant (the chief executive) how to do his job.

Mr Brown said most consultancy work was tested against a business case.

“The vast majority of money we spend is as a result of a process where a service says we can save money by investing in the short term,” he added.

A case had to be made to him that the county council could definitely save far more money than was invested. “This is how and when we employ consultants,” he said. “This is not an aid to prop up the workforce. They are only brought in when there is a solid business case.”

Answering another question from Mr Hall, Mr Brown said that for the year ending March 31, 2011, 19 county council staff had remuneration of £100,000 a year or more. One further staff member fell into this category if redundancy costs were included.

Only ten staff now had an annual salary in excess of £100,000.

Questioned about redundancy payments which had been made to senior officers, Mr Brown said these were the statutory minimum the county council was required to make.

No payments were made which were not absolutely obligatory.

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