ANGER has erupted after it was revealed a council making staff redundant to help balance its books is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to consultants.
Northumberland County Council is spending nearly £700,000 in the 2012-13 financial year on consultants and interim staff.
Opposition councillors have hit out at the spend, especially at a time when some staff are facing the prospect of being made redundant as the local authority looks to reduce its budget spending.
Figures seen by the News Post Leader show that the council is paying up to £4,250 a week to external consultants, with a daily rate of £850.
One is expected to earn £170,000 this financial year while another will receive £68,000.
Elsewhere, one interim appointee is receiving nearly £80,000 on a daily rate of £666 while in the same department five other interim staff receive daily rates of between £300 and £718.
Overall, it means the eight interims – who are doing specialist work on projects such as the delivery of super-fast broadband to the council – will receive £548,000 between them in 2012-13.
Labour group leader Coun Grant Davey hit out at the move, saying it was time to stop using consultants.
“There’s no better way to run things than asking the people who do the service how they would alter it,” he said.
“The council has relied on consultants, they haven’t tapped into the ideas of staff.
“It would be about asking the staff themselves their opinions and not bringing in people at very, very high rates to decide how it’s done.”
Coun Davey, who represents the Kitty Brewster ward in Blyth, said he questioned why money was being spent on interim staff for superfast broadband when the project was being paid for by the government.
He added: “It’s not a great way to run a company, by bringing in interims or consultants. It shows we’ve got no control.
“I think the money would be better spent improving services and retaining staff.”
Conservative county councillor for Cramlington North, Wayne Daley, said: “I am horrified to learn that some temporary staff are earning up to £850 per day at a time when the Lib Dem council is making staff redundant and cutting services.
“It is the economics of the mad house to get rid of people and then bring in others on salaries which look more like Premiership footballer pay rates.
“Clearly this is having a significant impact on staff morale and it is right for the tax payers of Northumberland to ask this administration how it justifies sacking people with one hand and then bringing in highly paid temps with another”
He added: “This is a massive amount of money at a time when maintenance of roads, pothole repairs and litter picking is being reduced.
“I think the council needs to prioritise what it does and focus on the people of Northumberland “
A council spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on individual members of staff or the details of salaries or terms and conditions.
“All councils across the country use external expertise at times to provide particular skills, knowledge and experience.
“Short term interim appointments such as these are a very cost effective way to deliver significant projects, particularly in delivering long term efficiency savings which help the council maintain services to residents when money is tight.
“These costs have been built into the council’s medium term financial plan and do not require additional funding.
“Broadband is something that everyone has told us is important – including MPs, business leaders and residents – and it was vital to introduce some dedicated resources to help move this project forward as quickly as possible.
“The project will be run through the Northumberland development company Arch, which is wholly owned by the county council.”
It is not the first time the council has been criticised for the money it spends on consultants.
Two years ago, it was revealed the authority spent more than £530,000 in one month on consultants, including paying one £1,175 a day.