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