Ardrossan Independent councillor John Hunter (pictured) has revealed that between April 2011 and March 2014, North Ayrshire Council spent £2.79m hiring consultants.
The local authority, which last week set a budget for the next 3 years that will require further ‘savings’ of almost £20m, defended its spend on consultants, saying council staff had “neither the expertise nor capacity...to undertake the work that the consultants are asked to complete.”
John Hunter disclosed the amount spent on consultants during Question Time at last Wednesday’s meeting of North Ayrshire Council. The Independent asked if £2.79m was considered to be “justifiable expenditure”, particularly when viewed against “savage cuts in the Education budget”.
Much of the council’s consultancy-spend was made under the previous Labour administration but has continued under the SNP regime elected in May 2012. Responding to John Hunter’s question, the SNP Cabinet member for Education, Attainment and Achievement, Cllr John Bruce, said, “Expenditure on consultants is scrutinised closely and sanctioned when it can be demonstrated that the work they are asked to undertake supports the Council’s objectives. It is also expected that neither the expertise nor the capacity exists across the employing service to undertake the work that the consultants are asked to complete. The contracts are awarded within a best value framework; therefore, are considered to be justifiable spends.”
However, in a supplementary question, Cllr Hunter asked what consultancy service had been provided to the Council by O’Really’s Tearoom.
Council documents show four separate payments were made to the Ardrossan tearoom between April and June 2013: £72.00, £78.00, £65.00 and £130.00, giving a total ‘consultancy-spend’ of £345.00. The payments were made by the Council under the heading of “Organisational, IT Strategy, Design and Advice”.
O’Really’s Tearoom, which was situated in Ardrossan’s Princes Street, ceased trading in October 2013.
For the Council administration, John Bruce indicated he would look into the matter and provide a reply to Cllr Hunter when it is available.