Westminster splashes cash on consultants and a ‘mind gym’

Council spent more than �1million on recruitment agents and handed over �32,000 on a ‘positive-thinking’ company in three months

MORE than �1million has been splashed out by Westminster Council on private recruitment consultants in the space of three months – while almost �100,000 went on media training and �32,000 was spent on a “mind gym”.

From October to December, the council spent �1,372,158 on recruitment consultants whose role is typically to match potential employees with vacant positions.

Over the same time period, the council also paid �91,390 to The Bridge Media Training Ltd and �32,870 to the Mind Gym , which claims to “transform performance by changing the way people think” – a company founded Octavius Black, whose wife is former Westminster North Conservative parliamentary candidate Joanne Cash.

Westminster has been criticised for a lack of transparency with its list after failing to explain what each transaction was spent on – unlike other London councils.

Westminster Labour group leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “I think the council is deliberately trying to hide what it is spending its money on.

“I have already written to the council’s chief executive with an example of another council’s spending which makes it absolutely clear how much was spent and exactly where the money went.

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“I will be reporting this failure to Eric Pickles [Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government] and asking him to take immediate action.”

The council also spent �740,291 at estate agent Knight Frank LLP, �4,320 on chauffeur company Heritage Cars Ltd, �775 to caterers Just Joe Catering and �74,259 to flower companies Cornish King Bulb Growers and Windowflowers Ltd.

Elsewhere, a �1,290 payment to fancy dress company Costume Studio Ltd can be explained as sponsored money given to the council to spend on their Alice in Wonderland-themed New Year’s Day Parade costumes.

“In this day and age and in this economic climate, the amount the council spends on recruitment consultants is a crazy waste,” said Cllr Dimoldenberg. “Some recruitment agencies take up to 25 per cent commission. The council has got its priorities back to front.”

Westminster’s finance and resources boss Cllr Melvyn Caplan said: “The details we provide online fully adhere to the government’s guidance on what information should be published.

“We are also looking at what further information we could provide to make this process easier for residents.

“We endorse the move for government, at all levels, to be more transparent and accountable. It is absolutely right that people should know how their council tax money is being spent.

“Westminster has one of the lowest council tax rates in the country which demonstrates our commitment to provide value for money for our residents.”

The council said it was unable to provide extra details on the payments highlighted by the Wood&Vale.