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Feb 28 2013

Harrow Council Spends £4,000,000 of residents’ money on Consultants

cllr_james_bondCouncillor James Bond (Independent, Headstone North) has forced Harrow Council to reveal that the’d spent more than four million pounds on consultants over a period of 28 months between May 2010 and September 2012.

Cllr Bond used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the extent to which the council hires consultancy companies at a time when its own staff are losing their jobs,  services are being cut back or stopped altogether, grants to local organisations are being axed  and council tax is set to rise by two per cent from April.

The spending on consultants shows a significant rise year on year- almost £1 .4 million  in 2010/11 rising to more than £1.75 million in 2011/12. The consultancy spends for the current  financial year covers the five months to the end of September 2012, for which the FOIA  request was submitted, and it reveals that Harrow had already spent nearly £1 million. This suggests that the appetite by council officials to hire outside advisors shows no signs of abating and the actual consultancy spending by the council could be considerably more than the £4 million accounted for in Cllr Bond’s freedom of information question.

The council’s Children’s Services are the biggest users of consultants having spent £357,126 in the tirst five months of the financial year 2012/13. Next come Community and Environment with a bill of £293,562 for its consultancy spends for the five months at the start of the current financial year and even the chief executive’s department racked up £54,887 over the same period.

The free spending era that has engulfed the council when it comes to engaging consultancy firms is in stark contrast to all other areas of expenditure which have seen a marked decline in the amount of funding being made available to spend on day to day services.

Cllr Bond points out, “It can no longer go unnoticed that one of the biggest losers will be Community and Environment which is about to make nearly £650,000 of ‘savings’ affecting street cleaning, rubbish collections and parks maintenance, whilst with a touch of irony the same department has spent almost £300,000 in just twenty weeks acquiring outside advice on how to do things better!”

“The people of Harrow are entitled to ask why millions of pounds are being poured into the pockets of consultancy firms when there is absolutely nothing positive to show for it. It would be judged as an appalling way to spend public money even if we had a strong economy, that it is allowed to happen in these austere times is absolutely scandalous,” said Cllr Bond.

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