SHEFFIELD Council has spent £411,000 in a single month on fees to highly-paid consultants - but claims it will help save up to £1m a year on management costs.
Figures released by the council show £80,646.05 of the total went on management consultants to help with a restructure of staffing. Almost £209,000 paid for IT consultants, £68,000 for engineers, and £26,000 for surveyors.
Two ‘ergonomics’ consultants were paid £1,187 to check whether working environments complied with health and safety guidance.
The spending, between April 1 last year and April 30 this year, has been published by the council to comply with Government rules forcing public bodies to disclose spending of more than £500.
Sheffield Council’s Labour leadership has defended use of consultants, particularly those working on the restructure, which it said were necessary to help the council slash management costs.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for finance, said: “The consultants will help us decide how to reduce the overall cost of running the council in the long term, which will save £1m over the coming year alone.”
But Steve Rich, secretary of Greenhill and Bradway Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “It’s an absolutely ridiculous bill which is quite staggering.
“Last year the council cut the small grants fund, which was worth only £90,000 a year and paid out sums of a few hundred pounds to community groups. The sum being spent on management consultants in April almost came to the same figure.
“The only money community groups can bid for now is from a Government scheme called Community First.”
He added: “I don’t see how the council can justify this spending. You would have thought there were ample managers in the Town Hall to decide how to cut costs.”
Jean Gleadall, of Wisewood TARA, added: “It’s disgraceful. Why does the council need so many consultants being paid hundreds a day when it has so many highly-paid senior officers already?”
The council has paid a total of £411,173 for 74 different consultants’ invoices during April. They included food consultants, archaeologists, architects, building consultants and surveyors.
Coun Simon Clement-Jones, Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Labour need to get their priorities straight - instead of splashing cash in the Town Hall they should be protecting the services local people care about.”
But Labour said the Lib Dems in 2009 approved a ‘temporary director of modern governance’ on £550 a day.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for finance, said: “The spending on consultants is necessary for certain roles that need to be undertaken from time to time but for which we do not need a full-time member of staff. To have in-house staff working on such roles would be much more expensive.
“We are looking to reduce such spending. The management consultants will help us to deliver long-term savings.”