WREXHAM Council has paid out a total of almost £2.8 million in external consultancy fees over the last three years.
The expenditure figure (gross) was revealed after a Freedom of Information request was submitted to the local authority.
In the last financial year, the council spent a total of £907,109 on consultancy fees, up on the £738,215 spent in 2011-12.
In 2010-11 the figure was £1,150,924.
The total spend over the three years comes in at £2,796,248.
Funding from specific grants contributed £800,000 towards the total bill over the three years, meaning a net council spend of almost £2m.
The spend figure includes the controversial near £52,000 paid to external consultants the Sports Consultancy, whose staff undertook a leisure review recommending the closure of Plas Madoc and Waterworld.
Campaigners against the closure have already questioned the council’s savings predictions from the move and slammed the consultancy spend.
Now councillors have expressed shock at the latest consultant spend revelations, which come as the council attempt to slash £13.9m from its budget for the next financial year.
Cllr Keith Gregory, of the Smithfield ward, said: “We employ a lot of our own officers but it seems every time there is a problem the council brings someone in from outside. It’s unnecessary a lot of the time.
“When we look at the cuts, we could be saving lots of money, simply by using our own officers.
“I believe the budget for consultants could be halved at least.
“The other issue is why do we employ these people if we are only going to go external anyway?
“I can accept we may need to go external for the big jobs like a massive road structure, but not for things like Plas Madoc.”
Cllr David A. Bithell, leader of the Wrexham Independents group, said historically the council had paid high fees for external consultants, but that it had been reduced.
However, he was worried the amount spent had started to rise again.
He said: “This is concerning when public services are being cut.
“Whenever possible, we should be avoiding paying fees, especially when we are paying senior officers a lot of money to make these kinds of decisions.”
A Wrexham Council spokesman said: “Wrexham Council is a large, diverse organisation with a gross expenditure of nearly £350m.
“There are certain specialist areas of expertise that it is best to buy in. This provides better value for money to taxpayers.
“The level of spend on consultants tends to vary according to the size of the council’s capital building programme and a significant proportion is paid for by external grants supporting these projects.”
The council offered an example of the consultants used in 2011-12 in relation to a decision to install solar panels on up to 3,000 homes which, Guildhall officers say, was the largest social housing solar project in the UK and would result in almost 3,000 tonnes of CO2 being saved annually.
“Projections indicate that this will generate an annual net surplus in excess of £500,000 over the course of the next 25 years which will be reinvested back into council services,” said the spokesman.
“Our tenants will also benefit through reduced electricity bills.
“Fifty local jobs were also created as part of the project.”
The council spokesman added: “The council has systems in place to challenge the use of consultants and is open and transparent in disclosing these details.
“Extra costs and fees are only incurred where absolutely necessary.”