Council pay out £370,000 in consultants’ fees

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

Taxpayers forked out £369,878 during the last financial year in outside consultants fees paid by Calderdale Council.

The council paid £70,000 to Sue Ross Consulting Ltd to act as Interim Head of Safeguarding and Quality until a permanent candidate could be found.

Another £21,360 was paid out to ISOQUAR to ‘undertake an audit of the council’s environmental management processes’.

The council paid £15,000 for ‘consultant support for the preparation and completion of a full business case application’ in the Copley Valley.

They are set to pay £40,000 for ‘a fundamental review of human resources and business change and performance management is needed to consider how these services are structured, managed and resourced to ensure arrangements are fit for the future needs of the council’.

Other payments included £2,000 to a consultant to help appoint a director for public health and £9,000 to Hague Nicols for advice on the council’s ‘retail market and disposal strategy’.

Sanderson Associates were paid £8,950 to ‘defend the council’s reason for refusal of a planning application’.

There was also a payment of £9,624 to Public-i to ‘find civic groups and individuals online; identifying traditional groups and their online presence; identifying skills in the council to transfer this knowledge to ‘network the networks’.

Andy Silvester, from the Tax Payers Alliance, said: “At first glance this seems a huge amount of money, and closer scrutiny does no favours either.

“The council has got to focus on delivering essential services, not expensive navel-gazing through internal audits and the hiring of recruitment consultants.

“Taxpayers deserve to know why each and every one of these consultants was required or questions will rightly be asked.”

Calderdale Council’s Leader, Coun Stephen Baines, said: “We have tight controls in place to prevent unnecessary spending on consultants and interim staff. Following a detailed review of the Council’s spend, we introduced a business case system where the use of consultants has to be justified, including the reasons why the work can’t be carried out internally. As a result, spend on consultancy has reduced by 41 per cent, and we continue to scrutinise spend.

“In certain cases we have a need for specialist roles where the skills are not available within the Council, but this is only for very specific pieces of work, and where we need an independent or challenging view. When we do appoint consultants we follow processes to make sure the contracts provide value for money.

“Regarding the figure of £70,000 for Sue Ross Consultancy, this included forecast figures from submitted business cases. They were based on allowing for a lengthy recruitment process to the permanent position should this be required. However, through careful management of the recruitment process the costs were kept to £23,000. This is a key role that was essential to fill due to the need for continued leadership while recruitment was carried out.”