Somerset council’s expensive consultants

July 05, 2012 11:12 AM

Somerset County Council (SCC) continues to be in thrall to expensive consultants. This time it is being accused of wasting money on making council officers redundant and then employing consultants—at a £1000 a day—to carry out their work of streamlining the authority!

‘Seeking voluntary redundancies before shaping the organisation was the wrong way round,’ says the current council opposition leader. ‘They should have sorted out the level of services first and then looked at staffing needs. Spending money on yet more consultants is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.’

The ‘change programme’ of reorganisation is meant to produce savings of £20m million, but is paying £1000 per day to the consultancy agency advising them. Council leader John Osman says the funding is an investment in updating their IT system and encouraging staff to change the way they work. He argues it is a vast improvement on the failures of the consultancy firm SouthWest One, criticised here in two previous blogs.

‘The council has learnt through bitter experience,’ says Osman, ‘that the last administration entered into a contract for ten years at £25 million per year that has not delivered and we are now spending a relatively small amount to achieve what that contract should have done. Somerset County Council staff have great front-line skills like looking after vulnerable people and children, but those are not the skills needed to bring huge structural changes or deliver the massive savings brought about through a reduction in funding from Government.’

Earlier this year, SCC took back elements of shared accounting and business development services, pensions, plus some HR functions from Southwest One, but left recruitment, payroll and HR administration with the company. The secondment of 160 council staff at SouthWest One has been terminated.

‘I think this is three or four years overdue. It has cost the council £500m,’ said the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset. ‘The police should follow suit and as quickly as possible.’

Now, SCC has agreed to spend £3-5m on its current ‘change programme’ and some of that money is being spent on consultants. ‘The vast majority – around 90 per cent – of people working on the change programme are Somerset County Council staff,’ says a spokesman, ‘but we recognise that they are working extremely hard and need support and technical expertise to deliver the programme.’

That a council has to employ consultants to help it carry out its job shows an obvious lack of administrative skills at its heart, which cannot be commended—after all, what on earth are we paying them for?—but  in the world of SCC, anything is better than SouthWest One…

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers' AllianceSomerset County Council (SCC) continues to be in thrall to expensive consultants. This time it is being accused of wasting money on making council officers redundant and then employing consultants—at a £1000 a day—to carry out their work of streamlining the authority!

‘Seeking voluntary redundancies before shaping the organisation was the wrong way round,’ says the current council opposition leader. ‘They should have sorted out the level of services first and then looked at staffing needs. Spending money on yet more consultants is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.’

The ‘change programme’ of reorganisation is meant to produce savings of £20m million, but is paying £1000 per day to the consultancy agency advising them. Council leader John Osman says the funding is an investment in updating their IT system and encouraging staff to change the way they work. He argues it is a vast improvement on the failures of the consultancy firm SouthWest One, criticised here in two previous blogs.

‘The council has learnt through bitter experience,’ says Osman, ‘that the last administration entered into a contract for ten years at £25 million per year that has not delivered and we are now spending a relatively small amount to achieve what that contract should have done. Somerset County Council staff have great front-line skills like looking after vulnerable people and children, but those are not the skills needed to bring huge structural changes or deliver the massive savings brought about through a reduction in funding from Government.’

Earlier this year, SCC took back elements of shared accounting and business development services, pensions, plus some HR functions from Southwest One, but left recruitment, payroll and HR administration with the company. The secondment of 160 council staff at SouthWest One has been terminated.

‘I think this is three or four years overdue. It has cost the council £500m,’ said the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset. ‘The police should follow suit and as quickly as possible.’

Now, SCC has agreed to spend £3-5m on its current ‘change programme’ and some of that money is being spent on consultants. ‘The vast majority – around 90 per cent – of people working on the change programme are Somerset County Council staff,’ says a spokesman, ‘but we recognise that they are working extremely hard and need support and technical expertise to deliver the programme.’

That a council has to employ consultants to help it carry out its job shows an obvious lack of administrative skills at its heart, which cannot be commended—after all, what on earth are we paying them for?—but  in the world of SCC, anything is better than SouthWest One…

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers' Alliance

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