There’s been much criticism of Birmingham City Council’s use of consultants of late, with education director Heather Tomlinson commanding £1,000 per day and Terry Brownhill – the spin doctor brought in to manage the authority’s public image in the wake of the Khyra Ishaq tragedy – also earning some £850 per day. One councillor referred to these extortionate fees as ‘footballers wages’ and there was general public outcry, particularly in light of public finances and ensuing redundancies. Surprising then that this has been something of a thrifty year…
In fact (according to the Birmingham Mail) BCC have chopped the use of consultants by 50% this year reducing costs from £60m to £30m in one fell swoop. This looks like quite an admirable achievement to the outsider, and some indicator that there’s a will to cut back on profligate spending within the council – the trouble is the evidence above demonstrates clearly that there’s still some way to go and this dramatic reduction isn’t quite what it seems.
City council officials justify hiring these extravagantly costly advisors by claiming that the authority just doesn’t have the in-house expertise, to which we can only ask how can this be possible??
In April 2009 we revealed that there were 11 people at Birmingham Council earning top level salaries with a combined wage bill well in excess of £1m, and – what’s more – in 2007/08 BCC had 1014 middle managers earning £50k+, costing taxpayers almost £62m.
On the basis that we can expect these figures to have increased, it's fair to say that there are a lot of people are earning a very good wage indeed. But somehow there’s still the sort of skills drought that means this authority has to draft in consultants to the tune of £30m?
And of course we can assume that many of the extra consultants hired last year will have been brought in to assist with the thus-far-ill-fated business transformation project but, of course, won’t be around or accountable if or when things go wrong during the life of the initiative. Any mess will presumably be cleared up by more/different consultants.
If staff levels were very low and the council was streamlined rather than the great hulking monolith it is, then it would be easier to forgive the occasional summoning of outside experts, but as it stands local taxpayers are shelling out huge amounts for top level staff and consultants and it’s only by really applying themselves to cutting costs that BCC can phase out this costly dependency and give residents true value for money.