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Freedom of Information request reveals Harrow Borough Council spent more than £4million on consultants
A councillor is "appalled" that Harrow Borough Council has spent more than £4 million on consultants in just over two years, while vital services and community groups faced cuts.
Figures obtained by Councillor James Bond show rises each year as the authority spent £1.4 million in 2010/2011, £1.75 million in 2011/2012 and almost £1 million in the first five months of the current financial year.
The largest amounts this year were chalked up by the council's children’s services department, which spent £357,126 and the community and environment department, with £293,562.
In total, Cllr Bond's Freedom of Information request revealed that £4,078,040 was spent between May 2010 and September 2012.
The Independent councillor, who represents Headstone North, contrasted the increasing amount spent on consultants with cuts of more than £650,000 from the council's street cleaning, rubbish collection and park maintenance budget.
Cllr Bond said the department spent £300,000 on external advice in 20 weeks.
He said: “I am astonished and appalled that in a little over two years they have managed to spend so much money.
“Harrow doesn’t need to spend money to get people to tell us how to cut the grass or empty the bins."
Cllr Bond believes employing consultants is like paying someone to tell you how to do your job and thinks the council should stop spending so much on outside advice.
He also drew attention to cuts faced by community groups, saying the money should be spent on Harrow’s voluntary sector, citing the Citizens Advice Bureau, which will close its face-to-face advice service on March 20 because of budget cuts.
Cllr Bond added: “It is absolutely disgraceful that they council is letting the CAB take a step backwards just when people need it most.
“Just a fraction of that money could save the service.”
Jon Turner, the council’s divisional director for HR, said the authority only employs consultants when it is absolutely necessary and will deliver real benefit.
He said: “Councils across the country use consultants when particular skills, knowledge or expertise are required from outside the local authority. Harrow Council will only employ consultants when it is absolutely necessary and will deliver real benefit.
“By 2015 we will have made savings of £75million to the council’s controllable budget. We have delivered these savings by reducing the number and pay of senior managers whilst protecting the lowest paid staff, making efficiencies in all departments, adopting a more commercial approach, improving procurement to get the most out of contracts and streamlining the way we make decisions.”