Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The consultant won't see you now

Tory councillor Len Clark is apparently puzzled. Not for the first time, I might add.

Don't worry - not all of the experts are on £2k a day. Some of them - the 'technical advisors' - have to scrape by on just £300 a day, which can only be described as a bargain. It is just those lucky few at partnership level who can demand the top whack of some half a million quid a year. Curiously, their money-saving skills never include the line item - 'Reduce dependency on consultants'

Now, I don't have a problem with consultants being used to bring in specific skills that a business or a council might need for a limited period. That makes sound sense, but consultants are too often used to disguise weak leadership and poor management. They are also handy for taking the blame for poor decisions. However, the business transformation project has been running for two years now and has - alone - consumed a whopping £107 million for just 160 agency staff. This works out to an average cost of £334,375 a year for each of them - surely enough to put a few staff through a professional training course or two by itself.

The Conservative councillor James Hutchings has run an inquiry into how consultants are used by BCC, but even he had to admit that the council have no idea how many they employ, nor what the costs are. It even seems likely that the use of consultants is failing to meet the basic standards of 'Best Value.'

It became quite clear early on in the committee’s work that a lot of information was simply not there to enable a thorough analysis of the council’s historic performance in this area... not been able to track total consultancy spend.... no standard procedure in place for defining and coding consultancy expenditure separately... the effect is to weaken accountability and hence efficiency... leaves the council open to innuendo that information is deliberately hidden.... the committee were unable to go further and make a value for money assessment.

Sadly, owing to a ruling by the unelected Mirza Ahmed, he wasn't able to take questions at last week's council meeting, thanks to a technicality.

Presumably the technicality was that the answers might prove embarrassing. All hail to the continuing style of open government in the Council House.


Anonymous said...

At the same time as paying out for "consultants". Birmingham City Council is continuing with its policy of grinding down the poor. Bailiffs, Equita are returning Council Tax Liability Order to the City's Revenues Departmentwith a note saying "No Effects" (there is nothing they can pinch to sell to pay unpaid Council Tax). So kind concerned BCC is sending in a second firm of bailiffs Jacobs to make sure the pressure is kept on some of city's most disadvantaged citizens.

This despite the fact the Meaning Evil - sorry Evening Mail - recently exposed the failure of city to use direct decuctions from benefit rather than using bailiffs.
which is recommend in government guideline on enforcement.

Just to make clear the city's priorities, they have also cancelled all debt and money advice training for frontline staff in frontline Neighbourhood Offices.

Must have spent the cash on consultants???

Anonymous said...

As a consultant I'm proud work on the programme referred to in the article. Implied within the article are the reasons why there is an over dependency on management consultants. I'm afraid BCC management lack the competencies, skills and insight to improve the services they offer. Yes the money should be invested in service improvement led and delivered by council staff. However, If the unions want this they need to get shot of the dross they employ. Wont happen because it takes several years to sack someone in local government.