Row over payments to consultants at Sheffield flats

Park Hill, Sheffield
Park Hill, Sheffield
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CONSULTANTS are being paid £113 an hour from public funds – to ‘ensure value for money’ in the redevelopment of Park Hill flats.

Sheffield Council is authorising the payments to an international firm of property consultants on behalf of the Homes and Communities Agency, using £40 million of Government funding towards the project.

The company, Rider Levett Bucknall, has been used on Park Hill since the redevelopment started in 2005.

Figures revealed under The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign have found 47 payments, totalling £135,802, made by the council to the firm between December 2010 and December 2012.

A December 2012 payment of £909.60 was for eight hours’ work.

Rod Padley, convenor for trade union Unison at Sheffield Council, where 600 staff are set to lose their jobs due to £50m budget cuts, said: “Most of our members – many of whom are poorly-paid women – would be lucky to earn £113 a week in their take-home pay let alone £113 an hour.

“This seems an extravagant use of public money in these current times.”

Rider Levett Bucknall, which has an office on Balm Green, Sheffield, said it was appointed to the Park Hill project in 2005.

Details of payments it received between 2005 and 2010 have not been made available by the council.

The company says it is ‘retained as project monitors, to ensure compliant delivery of the scheme within budget, cost and quality parameters’.

It adds its role involves working ‘jointly with each stakeholder to substantiate public and private sector value for money’.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance, said no council cash was involved.

He said: “The Homes and Community Agency gives us the money to pay Rider Levett Bucknall and we process the payment – rather like a middle man.

“Although the payment is made through the council, there is a specific grant from the Homes and Communities Agency to cover this and all fees paid to Rider Levett Bucknall are reimbursed by the Agency.”

The HCA said: “Rider Levett Bucknall have contributed to the financial management of the project and developed a cost plan, using a bespoke piece of software.

“Over the years they have acquired an in depth understanding of the project and its attendant complexities.”