£132,000 cost of consultant

Children's centre campaigner Chrissy Meleady
Children's centre campaigner Chrissy Meleady
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Sheffield Council spent £132,000 bringing in a consultant for 12 months - to help make £3 million of cuts to nurseries and children’s services.

Families affected say the cost is an ‘outrage’ but the council said the appointment was to cover for a senior officer who had left.

The latest casualty of the council’s shake-up is nursery care at Burngreave Children’s Centre, Spital Street, which is ending on November 22. Parents said they expected the service to continue until the summer.

Chrissy Meleady, from Norfolk Park and a user of the Sheffield Children’s Centre, Sharrow, said she was appalled by the huge consultancy bill.

Money is being saved from early years facilities because the Government is changing how the services are funded.

Sheffield Council revealed that consultant Julie Dale was employed on a one-year temporary contract between February 2012 and March 2013 at a cost of £132,745 - which included a £26,586 fee to agency Reed Consulting.

Ms Meleady, of campaign organisation Families Using Children’s Services Group, said: “The commissioning of consultants and at a time of great cuts is seen by families as an outrage.”

Parents inconvenienced by the early closure of nursery care at Pitsmoor were also angry.

They face having to arrange alternatives for their children at short notice.

One mum said: “I appreciate savings have to be made but to pay a person such a ludicrous amount of money is not right.”

Sheffield Council said Ms Dale was employed to ‘lead on restructuring the service’.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The previous director responsible for the restructure left part way through and, rather than employ a replacement, it saved the council money to hire a temporary specialist from an agency.

Coun Drayton added that parents affected by Burngreave nursery changes are being offered alternative places nearby.