Council slammed for spending �1million on private consultants

MORE than �1million has been splashed out by Camden Council on private consultants in just two months – and more than �3million on temporary staff.

During October and November council bosses spent �1,196,700 on consultants, who are used for a range of tasks including advising on cost cutting or filling in gaps in staffing.

Residents have branded it disgusting and a complete waste of cash and are furious that a further �25,000 is due to be spent on a consultant to advise on how to cut the under-threat library service budget.

Marcia MacLeod, who lives in West Hampstead, said: “This is absolutely ridiculous. They should be spending the money on keeping things open not on consultants working out how to close them.

“It does not surprise me at all. I do not believe anything the council does is really in the interests of its residents or ratepayers. If they do not have the expertise within the council to be able to run it without consultants then they are in the wrong job.”

Friend of Belsize Library Elaine Hallgarten added: “As a thinking person I am horrified and as a Camden ratepayer I am horrified.

“It is a disgusting waste of resources when we are so strapped for them. We are a drop in the ocean at Belsize library which costs �150,000 a year – they are spending that in a matter of weeks on consultants. They are so careless that they can throw money away like that.”

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Haverstock councillor Matt Sanders added: “Don’t we pay councillors to come up with ideas? It is a huge amount of money at a time when every penny is precious.”

The council also spent �3,207,450 on agency staff – of which �2,893,327 was spent with a single firm, Hays Recruitment.

This has infuriated unions as more than 1,000 permanent staff are facing redundancy as part of the council’s ongoing cuts strategy.

George Binette, branch secretary of Camden Unison, said: “At a time when frontline services are being cut and we face the potential loss of 1,000 jobs this kind of spend on consultants is ethically unjustified and economically dubious.

“We have been arguing for a long time against the high levels of agency staff, a high proportion of which have been there for 12 months or more.”

The council last week announced plans to write to wealthy bankers and lawyers living in Camden to donate a portion of their bonuses or salary to save libraries, which are facing a �1.6million cut, and fund school repairs.

Former councillor and Hampstead resident Chris Philp said: “It is shocking that they are asking people to make donations when they are wasting such a huge amount of money on consultants - enough money has been spent in one month to save the whole libraries budget.”

Local government minister Eric Pickles ordered councils to publish lists of all expenditure over �500 by the end of January.

Other Camden spends include �9,350 in November on plants and seeds, �1,500 on a basketball camp, �984 on dry cleaning and in October �2,955 on stamps and �37,992 on the Camden website.

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: “Like many responsible employers, Camden uses temporary agency workers to cover vacant roles.

“However we have reduced our spend in this area considerably and will continue to do so.

“While the council is also reducing the use of consultants, they have previously been used for their specialist and technical expertise, for example in major, high risk projects where we do not have the necessary skills and expertise in-house or in complex IT development projects like online services to increase web usability for our residents. Hiring external experts on a temporary basis can be more cost efficient than employing additional permanent staff.”