Concerns raised over spend on consultants

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The ABC Council’s first Lord Mayor is angry over “the unnecessary tens of thousands of pounds over-spent during the past financial year on outside consultants”.

Councillor Darryn Causby has produced figures to show that £500,000 was handed out to consultants in 2015-16, although £260,000 was recouped in the form of grants, mainly from various European sources.

That left the ratepayers with a whopping £240,000 bill, which Mr Causby insists could have been substantially reduced “had the council used the expertise at its disposal, namely its own professional officers who would have been perfectly capable in carrying out much of the work”.

He added, “There was one case in the past when our own officers had to re-do the work of a firm of consultants, which proved a waste of time and resources. I recognise there are several specialised projects which cannot be done in-house and this has been explained to me. But equally there are many jobs that could and should have been done by our highly-qualified staff.”

He added, “During 2015-16, the guidelines were, in my view, unclear. They have since been tightened up, and the new rules must be used in future.”

The projects are divided into various committee responsibilities – tourism and culture; economic development; regeneration; health and recreation; community development; estates and assets management; and human resources. Around 30 firms of consultants were involved.

A total of £9,269 was paid out for tourism, all of which was borne by the ratepayers. By far the biggest was economic development at £324,801, with heavy support grants from Europe bringing down the final figure. Regeneration cost £65,745, and again grants were generous. Community development cost £22,272, with the council bearing most of the bill.

Said Mr Causby, “Many individual jobs could have been carried out by our own staff and this must be the strict rule of thumb in future. Perhaps council members took their eye off the ball and left too much to directors and senior staff.”

The projects cover all three former ABC council areas – Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon - which runs from the southern shores of Lough Neagh to the Border.

the council was asked for a response but at time of going to press none had been received.