Millions spent on advisers

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CONSULTANTS hired by Scarborough Council have cost the taxpayer almost £5 million in less than three years, it has been revealed.

CONSULTANTS hired by Scarborough Council have cost the taxpayer almost £5 million in less than three years, it has been revealed.

Between April and November 2010, the local authority paid individual consultants and consultancy firms more than £2 million, which is £750,000 more than in the whole of 2008/09. A total of £1.25 million was paid out in 2008/09, increasing to £1.45 million in 2009/10. Click on the link to the right to view a breakdown of the costs.

Projects which the council hired consultants for between April and November include the Middle Deepdale housing plans, the Open Air Theatre and Scarborough Spa.

Consultancy fees were also spent on areas such as the Mere and Cayton Bay, and Whitby sites.

MAP Archeological Consultancy was paid £80,000 for work on the Deepdale housing plan in Scarborough, while £110,000 was handed to Infoterra Ltd, after it carried out a coastal aerial survey.

Drivers Jonas Deloitte were paid more than £46,000 in project management fees. The revelations come after it was announced that 50-plus permanent staff members are to be axed by the council, which equates to almost five per cent of their total permanent workforce.

Tony Randerson, regional officer for Unite the Union, said the amount the council spends on external consultants had concerned him for a number of years.

“This is an issue that goes way back,” he said. “From time to time there is a need to get expert experience and advice, but what worries me is that money seems to be found for consultants when at the same time people are being made redundant.

“The figure seems exceedingly high when in the same breath they are cutting a large number of jobs.

“I’m not saying there aren’t times when consultants are needed, but there seems to be a haste to rush to them rather than sorting issues out in-house.

“If I was an employee who was losing my job, I would feel very much aggrieved.”

In September, the Evening News revealed that almost £20,000 was paid to theatre experts Lynne Burton and Robert Cogo-Fawcett and architect Simon Geyde for work on the Futurist Theatre.

Mr Geyde produced 3D images and sketches of the theatre while Mrs Burton and Mr Cogo-Fawcett gave their opinions on the workings of the venue.

Scarborough Council have also hired Royal Haskoning, an independent engineering and environmental consultancy firm, to carry out a £560,000 report on sea defences along South Cliff.

They said the cost of the report was to be covered by a grant from the Environment Agency.

In 2009/10, Drivers Jonas were paid £361,000 for services provided to the council, which included work regarding the Spa, the Open Air Theatre and the council’s Dean Road depot.

And £300 was paid for consultancy advice on a “Jurassic garden” in Whitby’s Pannett Park.

White Young Green Consulting Ltd were paid £56,000 for assistance with Scarborough and Whitby business parks.

The previous year, they received more than £145,000 for work on the same projects.

Also in 2008/09, PMP Consultancy got £1,260 for a “mystery visit” and two-day on-site assessment, while the Environment Partnership were paid £16,500 for a feasibility study and planning for The Mere in Scarborough.

Drivers Jonas were once again highly paid in 08/09, taking £235,000 for work on numerous projects.

The council have recently hired consultants in an attempt to identify savings in their budget.

Central government has slashed the local authority’s budget by £2.5 million for the 2011/12 year, and a further £1.7 million for 2012/13.

Northgate Public Services, the company that won a short-term contract to act as efficiency consultants, were paid more than £250,000 between April and December.

The council say they were employed on an “invest to save” basis, and claim the company has so far identified £480,000 worth of savings.

Explaining the role of Northgate Public Services, a council representative said: “The fees incurred are not purely to review and report, but also include the provision of the necessary expertise and additional staff resource which is not available in-house.

“This additional staff resource works with individual services and then implements more efficient ways of working, ensuring that new skills are transferred to existing members of staff.”

Northgate Public Services’ temporary contract expired on December 31. They have since been named as Scarborough Council’s long-term efficiency partner.