Richmond’s costly cost savings

April 24, 2012 12:47 PM

Richmond Borough Council in south-west London has spent more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money employing accounting firm Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) — to help it work out strategies for saving money.

Not all councillors supported the decision. ‘I had absolute confidence in our own officers to come up with ideas,’ said Councillor Geoffrey Samuel. ‘But they went straight for outside consultants.’ Councillor Stephen Knight commented, ‘Arguably the money might have been better spent providing better services.’ Well... yes.

The £100,000-plus figure was cited in response to a Freedom of Information request. As part of an efficiency review, PWC carried out an audit of the council’s finances to identify duplicate payments. It found so many duplications that £100,000 could be saved, offsetting PwC’s £95,000 fee. However, a look at the minutes of council meetings during 2010 and 2011 suggests the council spent more on PWC fees.

The accounting firm also reviewed ways of raising more council income—for a fee of £45,000 rising to a possible £190,000. And for a further £145,000 it is helping council officers to improve procurement and contract management.

No doubt PWC’s analyses and recommendations are first-rate (although at one point council minutes state: ‘the cost of changes suggested by Price Waterhouse Cooper, compared to the savings, meant that their recommendations were not worth implementing. The new assessment [by yet more consultants] would assess the entire working structure of the Council.’) PWC has after all provided similar help for other councils.

But surely, rather than council after council paying for expensive separate consultants, couldn’t local government as a whole codify best practice in areas like procurement and contract management, based on the findings of PWC and others, and make it available for adoption by councils nationwide?Richmond Borough Council in south-west London has spent more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money employing accounting firm Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) — to help it work out strategies for saving money.

Not all councillors supported the decision. ‘I had absolute confidence in our own officers to come up with ideas,’ said Councillor Geoffrey Samuel. ‘But they went straight for outside consultants.’ Councillor Stephen Knight commented, ‘Arguably the money might have been better spent providing better services.’ Well... yes.

The £100,000-plus figure was cited in response to a Freedom of Information request. As part of an efficiency review, PWC carried out an audit of the council’s finances to identify duplicate payments. It found so many duplications that £100,000 could be saved, offsetting PwC’s £95,000 fee. However, a look at the minutes of council meetings during 2010 and 2011 suggests the council spent more on PWC fees.

The accounting firm also reviewed ways of raising more council income—for a fee of £45,000 rising to a possible £190,000. And for a further £145,000 it is helping council officers to improve procurement and contract management.

No doubt PWC’s analyses and recommendations are first-rate (although at one point council minutes state: ‘the cost of changes suggested by Price Waterhouse Cooper, compared to the savings, meant that their recommendations were not worth implementing. The new assessment [by yet more consultants] would assess the entire working structure of the Council.’) PWC has after all provided similar help for other councils.

But surely, rather than council after council paying for expensive separate consultants, couldn’t local government as a whole codify best practice in areas like procurement and contract management, based on the findings of PWC and others, and make it available for adoption by councils nationwide?

Latest Blogs: