Dismay about council decision

A FILEY councillor has reacted with dismay over Scarborough Council’s policy to employ costly consultants to identify cash savings.

Cllr Sam Cross has criticised the authority after it agreed to appoint Northgate Information Solutions UK to make future key financial decisions.

Cllr Cross called in the proposal after is was first contended, saying it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The process of calling in plans are a council safeguard when cabinet decisions do not have to be referred to the full council.

However, despite Cllr Cross’ actions, which received backing from Cllr Mick Jay-Hanmer, the original decision to use Northgate was passed by a majority vote.

Under the programme Northgate has promised to deliver a minimum saving of £1.3 million over the next three years.

The company will be paid around £800,000 for its services.

It has guaranteed to provide net saving of £2.3 million during the next five years.

However, Cllr Cross, speaking to The Mercury after the meeting, said there was a lot of unrest over the decision.

He said: “The item should have been taken at the Corporate and Strategy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“The council are paying £820,000 to save £1.3 million over three years, but I believe this can be done in-house.

“We have three directors paid more than the MP.

“York City Council had consultants in and no longer use them and are targetting to save £18 million using their own staff and management team.

“Employees are not happy.

“The benefits service is being attacked, which in these difficult times, the poor and elderly will use more and more.

“I have had emails and great support from many people.

“I can also safely say that the man in the street is not happy about wasting money on consultants in difficult times.”

He added during the meeting that he would like councillors to ask their constituents if they preferred to see consultants hired for the purpose or whether they wanted management teams to identify cuts.

He said: “We need more clear transparency to members of the public and councillors of what is going on with Northcliff.

“We should be directed to what is to be cut - figures need to be identified.”

Scarborough Council’s Stategic Director Hilary Jones said the plan had been discussed at several council meetings since March last year.

She said councillors should have been aware an “efficiency partner” would be appointed.

She said: “If we were to try to recruit the efficiency staff today and retain it in-house it wouldn’t be best value.

“We will have access to specialist skills as and when we need them.”

Ms Jones added although £4.5 million had been spent on consultants over the past three years, more than £3.5 million of that had come from external funding including grants.

However, Cllr Nick Harvey also expressed some worries over the decision.

He said: “I am concerned over how much of the money saved by consultants will be paid back to them.

“We have well paid senior staff who should be able to put forward savings,.

“These savings then need to be decided by elected councillors, it is not easy, but that is what we are elected to do.

“At the end of the day, we are elected and local people have the choice in May to elected new councillors.

“While much blame lies with the banking sector for the country’s financial mess, as elected councillors we need to make the hard choices of where money is to be saved.

“I feel that the most vulnerable should not be in the firing line.”