Calderdale Council forks out £1.3m on consultants

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

Taxpayers have stumped up £1.3m on external consultants used by Calderdale Council since 2012.

The consultants were used across five council departments - adults and social care, which spent £57,116, the chief executive’s office, which accounted for £67,852, communities, which spent £347,532, children’s and young person’s, which spent £109,430 and economy and environment, which accounted for £753,180.

There was £282,374.58 spent on IT development consultants in the communities department between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

Burns Collett were paid £6,000 for writing a bid for the Great Exhibition of the North in 2016/17, while Mouchel were paid £31,135 between 2015 and 2017 for the production of a cycling strategy.

Sustrans Ltd received £58,000 between 2013 and 2015 for the preparation of an active travel plan, while £100,274 was handed to WSP UK Ltd for transport planning work for the Local Plan in 2016/17.

MVGLA Ltd were paid £10,100 in 2015/16 for advice about a wind farm appeal, while Impower Consulting Ltd received £33,235 for consultancy work relating to “demand management and behaviour change” in 2012/13.

Peter Davies, from the GMB Union, said: “The GMB have long argued in all local authorities that the brunt of austerity and the appalling cuts to council budgets has to be shared and not the sole burden of front line and low paid workers and cuts to the services they provide for our communities.

“It’s tough, we know, but many councillors are clearly giving their senior officers, despite cuts to our budgets, the same free range to use public money like confetti when it comes to proving this so called expert opinion that outside consultants claim to posses.

“We don’t need to spend £1.4 million to confirm that these cuts are devastating our social, children’s, communities and environmental services. We tell the council and the government that every day for nothing.

“When you compare this with the fact that Calderdale allocated just £3,000 last year in resources to the GMB and Unison reps to provide consultation in support of over 1,500 school support staff you can see where these managers think the priority sits.

“Dishing this money out to their friends who run these consultancies is an obscene misuse of public money and its time they thought about the workers who actually do the work for a change and what support they need.”

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Local councils should always be careful with how they spend taxpayers money, and that includes compensating external consultants. The council should justify why this work could not have been produced more cheaply internally.”

Coun Tim Swift, Calderdale Council’s Leader, said: “We continue to reduce the spend on consultants, interims and agency staff and wherever possible we use our skills within the council. We only appoint consultants when absolutely necessary, and our spend on consultants compares well with other neighbouring authorities.

“Ambitious council planning has secured major investment for Calderdale, such as the work to deliver £150 million worth of transport improvements in Calderdale from the West Yorkshire Transport Fund and funding of £65 million to significantly increasing the standard of protection against future flooding. To deliver these major projects it’s been necessary to appoint consultants for the very specific nature of work. These projects will bring in new investment and have far-reaching benefits for years to come.

“As a leader in the use of digital technology, we are constantly looking at ways to use technology to deliver better and more efficient services. The council has already reduced its spending and generated additional income through IT of £350,000 in recent years, and plans to make further efficiency savings of £300,000 in the medium term. The spend on IT consultants was for a specific project to develop our in-house Client Information System, which is used by various teams within Adults, Health and Social Care and has improved efficiency and effectiveness of services for clients and communities.”

The top 10 biggest consultancy fees:

£100,274 to WSP UK Ltd for transport planning work for the Local Plan

£71,000 to Estio Technology Recruitment as an IT development consultant

£65,331,50 to LA Fosse Associates Ltd as an IT development consultant

£64,338 to WSP UK Ltd for various specialist work on transport planning

£57,867.08 to SThree Partnerships as an IT development consultant

£55,091 to Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners Limited for an employment land review for the Local Plan

£55,000 to Leeds City Council as an IT development consultant

£47,400 to Calderdale Excellence Partnership Ltd for school improvements

£42,153 to the Environment Agency for flooding investigations

£33,235 to Impower Consulting Limited for consultancy work on demand management & behaviour change