Anger over Flintshire Council’s consultancy payment

Reporter:

Lois Hough

COUNCIL bosses have paid one consultancy firm £400,000 in three years, the Leader can reveal.

The firm has pocketed £400,000 – more than council chief executive Colin Everett who takes home £120,000 a year.

The revelations have sparked a row over the future of agency workers.

Furious councillors, who last month agreed to take a pay freeze along with all council staff, are now calling for pricey consultants to be axed and for the council to make the most of its workforce.

Cllr Bernie Attridge, deputy leader of the opposition, said: “We have got people earning a pittance that could be losing their jobs while we are feathering the nests of these consultants.

“We are forking out millions of pounds for consultants when we have staff already employed by the council that can do the job.

“Why, when times are tough, are we making these people even richer?

“This particular consultant was brought in on a six-month contract and has been here ever since.

“That is just one person that I know of and I’m told there is more.

“Something is not right. We need to look at how many agency staff the council is employing.”

A system called Multi-Agency Staff Solution was introduced in 2007 to regulate agency workers at the council.

Mostyn councillor Patrick Heesom is demanding to know why the system did not detect the expensive consultant.

He said: “Flintshire was the the worst local authority for paying through their nose for agency workers.

“We set up this system to monitor the agency staff we employ and it clearly hasn’t worked.

“This man may be valuable as a project manager but £400,000 is going too far. It is a fraught and very expensive problem.”

Sarah Taylor, from union Unison, said the council should look at its own workforce before hiring outsiders.

She added: “I acknowledge that they have specialist skills that we need, but it is public money that we are spending so we should be ensuring we get value for money.

“I think the council needs to look more creatively at the skills it has got. It already employs managers and they are there to manage so why does it need to bring in consultants?”

- Flintshire Council's response in full:

A spokesman for Flintshire Council had this response:

“In common with other councils and large organisations consultants are engaged where it is not possible to retain specialist skills in-house, there is a capacity gap, an independent view is required or where it is required by an external grant funder such as the Welsh Assembly Government.

“Where consultants are engaged a detailed business case has to be made to ensure it represents value for money and that as an organisation we do not become over-reliant on consultancy support.

“The fees paid to individual consultants are not publicly available because of commercial sensitivity, however one company was paid approximately £400,000 for its services across a range of council projects over a three year period between 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10.

“A significant part of this total was the company’s involvement in the implementation of a new joint social care information system, Paris, for Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy Councils, a major project led by the Paris system developer Civica.

“This complex information technology system embraces all aspects of health and social care and required specialist skills and experience in areas not available in-house.

“The company was also engaged to work on the Managed Agency Staff Solution project, which has already realised major efficiencies and savings of approximately £570k since its introduction in October 2008.

“This particular company has a proven track record of providing advice and support and when engaged by council services all the necessary contract tendering and appointment criteria were met.”

See full story in the Leader

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